Oman drilling project
The formation and evolution of the ocean crust is a fundamental Earth process, yet long standing scientific questions remain unanswered, principally due to the limited sampling of the lower crust and upper mantle from the ocean basins. The Oman drilling project represents an opportunity to study the exposed ocean crust in Oman in unrivalled detail by combining the detailed core logging typical of scientific ocean drilling with outcrop observations. Over two winter drilling seasons, a series of 9 diamond cored boreholes and 6 rotary drilled boreholes have been drilled into different levels of the lower oceanic crust and shallow mantle. The recovered cores were described onboard DV Chikyu to scientific drilling standards.
Dr Michelle Harris and Professor Antony Morris, along with PhD students Louise Koornneef and Marta Grabowska are members of the international science team for the Oman Drilling Project, working on the drill sites and participating in the core description campaigns. Dr Michelle Harris participated in the ChikyuOman2017 core characterisation campaign serving multiple roles including as a Co-chief scientist (Hole GT3) and Alteration Team Leader.
Ongoing research: Deep hydrothermal systems
The circulation of seawater through the newly formed seafloor at mid-ocean ridges plays a pivotal role in advecting away the heat released through the formation of the seafloor and allowing it to cool, this process manifest spectacularly at the seafloor through black smoker hydrothermal vents. Hydrothermal circulation is preserved in the rock record by the presence of secondary minerals formed by fluid/rock reaction, the distribution and abundance of these secondary minerals provides insights into the temperature, magnitude and pathways of the circulating fluids. Previous studies using samples from the modern ocean basins indicate that the hydrothermal system must extend deep into the ocean crust in order to cool the ocean crust (Hydrothermal cooling of the ocean crust: Insights from ODP Hole 1256D” Harris et al., 2017 EPSL). One of the key questions that the Oman Drilling Project drill cores will help address is 'what is the role of deep hydrothermal circulation in cooling the lower oceanic crust?' and is a focus on the ongoing research at the University of Plymouth by Dr Michelle Harris and PhD student Marta Grabowska.
Further information about the Oman drilling project can be found on the project websites: