IODP team succeeds in recovering sub-seafloor sample
The first 40 million years of Arctic climate history have been recovered from beneath the Arctic seafloor this week. After four days of working in hazardous conditions, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programs (IODP) Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) retrieved 272 meters of core. Extreme sea ice then forced the ship to abandon its position.
Coring of the Arctics first scientific borehole--located roughly 145 miles (233 kilometres) from the North Pole--was interrupted when very thick, moving ice floes threatened the expeditions safety. Even one of the worlds most powerful ice breakers, the Russian Sovetskiy Soyuz, employed to protect the coring ship from harsh Arctic elements, could not safeguard operations at the initial coring site.
As the expedition team searches for another favorable site from which to core, scientists on board the Vidar Viking have examined microfossils in the retrieved core. Initial analyses suggest that some of the material in the cores sediments could be 40 million years old--originating in the Middle Eocene period. The expeditions co-chief scientist, Professor Jan Backman of the University of Stockholm, exclaims, "This is very exciting. For the first time, we are beginning to get information about the history of ice in the central Arctic Ocean." He adds, "This core goes back to a time when there was no ice on the planet--it was too warm. It will tell us a great deal about the climate of the region. It will tell us when it changed from hot to cold, and hopefully, why." Prof. Backman explains that in prehistoric times, life in the Arctic Ocean was much different than today. In warmer conditions and free from ice, marine life thrived. The retrieved Arctic sediments will indicate the type and abundance of marine creatures that lived here back then. The cores were raised from sea depths of about 600 meters, coring depths formerly unmatched in Arctic waters.
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