Friday, July 23, 2010

MGL1004: Why we're here

Nobody hasn't explained yet what this cruise is all about, so here it is. We're heading to the Shatsky Rise in the western Pacific, which is a massive oceanic plateau (or a "supervolcano" if you watch BBC), and we're going to investigate its crustal structure to understand how this plateau formed and why. The origin of this plateau has been mysterious and controversial as well, and resolving it has many important implications for how Earth's mantle works (I'll write about them later).

How do we study the crustal structure? We'll use big artificial seismic sources generated by an array of "air guns" and listen to how seismic waves propagate to reconstruct the subsurface structure. We'll use both multichannel seismic (MCS) profiling, which gives us a detailed image of the upper crust, and ocean bottom seismometers (OBS), with which we can reconstruct the entire crustal structure. We'll spend 32 days in the survey area (called "science days"), and it takes 20 days total to go back and forth between the Shatsky Rise and Honolulu, so our cruise is 52 days long. Yes, this cruise is quite a long one.

This field project is a collaboration between Yale (Jun Korenaga) and Texas A&M (Will Sager), funded by U.S. National Science Foundation. We had one more scientist from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (John Diebold), but unfortunately, and very sadly, John passed away two weeks before the cruise (read an obituary here). We were, however, lucky enough to find a substitute at the very last minute, and Jackie Floyd is onboard to oversee MCS data processing. Besides that, we have seven graduate students (two from Yale and five from TAMU); I'll let them introduce themselves when they make a new post. We also have a science tech group from Lamont, an OBS team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and five marine mammal observers (MMO). Keep reading the blog to find out who they are and what they do!

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