International Ocean Discovery Program
Expedition 393 Preliminary Report
South Atlantic Transect 21
Damon A.H. Teagle, Julia Reece, Rosalind M. Coggon, Jason B. Sylvan, Gail L. Christeson, Trevor J. Williams, Emily R. Estes, and the Expedition 393 Scientists
1 Teagle, D.A.H., Reece, J., Coggon, R.M., Sylvan, J.B., Christeson, G.L., Williams, T.J., Estes, E.R., and the Expedition 393 Scientists, 2023. Expedition 393 Preliminary Report: South Atlantic Transect 2. International Ocean Discovery Program. https://doi.org/
The South Atlantic Transect (SAT) is a multidisciplinary scientific ocean drilling experiment designed to investigate the evolution of the oceanic crust and overlying sediments across the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. This project comprises four International Ocean Discovery Program expeditions: fully staffed Expeditions 390 and 393 (April–August 2022) built on engineering preparations during Expeditions 390C and 395E that took place without science parties during the height of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Through operations along a crustal flow line at ~31°S, the SAT recovered complete sedimentary sections and the upper ~40–340 m of the underlying ocean crust formed at a slow to intermediate spreading rate at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge over the past ~61 My. The sediments along this transect were originally spot cored more than 50 y ago during Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 3 (December 1968–January 1969) to help verify the theories of seafloor spreading and plate tectonics.
The SAT expeditions targeted six primary sites on 7, 15, 31, 49, and 61 Ma ocean crust that fill critical gaps in our sampling of intact in situ ocean crust with regards to crustal age, spreading rate, and sediment thickness. Drilling these sites was required to investigate the history, duration, and intensity of the low-temperature hydrothermal interactions between the aging ocean crust and the evolving South Atlantic Ocean. This knowledge will improve the quantification of past hydrothermal contributions to global biogeochemical cycles and help develop a predictive understanding of the impacts of variable hydrothermal processes and exchanges. Samples from the transect of the previously unexplored sediment- and basalt-hosted deep biosphere beneath the South Atlantic Gyre are essential to refine global biomass estimates and examine microbial ecosystems’ responses to variable conditions in a low-energy gyre and aging ocean crust.
The transect is located near World Ocean Circulation Experiment Line A10, which provides a baseline for records of carbonate chemistry and deepwater mass properties across the western South Atlantic through key Cenozoic intervals of elevated atmospheric CO2 and rapid climate change. Reconstruction of the history of the deep western boundary current and deepwater formation in the Atlantic basins will yield crucial data to test hypotheses regarding the role of evolving thermohaline circulation patterns in climate change and the effects of tectonic gateways and climate on ocean acidification.
During engineering Expeditions 390C and 395E, a single hole was cored through the sediment cover and into the uppermost rocks of the ocean crust with the advanced piston corer (APC) and extended core barrel (XCB) systems at five of the six primary proposed SAT sites. Reentry systems with casing were then installed either into basement or within 10 m of basement at each of those five sites. Expedition 390 (7 April–7 June 2022) conducted operations at three of the SAT sites, recovering 700 m of core (77%) over 30.3 days of on-site operations. Sediment coring, basement coring, and wireline logging were conducted at two sites on 61 Ma crust (Sites U1556 and U1557), and sediment coring was completed at the 7 Ma Site U1559.
Expedition 393 operated at four sites, drilling in 12 holes to complete this initial phase of the SAT. Complete sedimentary sections were collected at Sites U1558, U1583, and U1560 on 49, 31, and 15 Ma crust, respectively, and together with 257.7 m of sediments cored during earlier operations, more than 600 m of sediments was characterized. The uppermost ocean crust was drilled at Sites U1558, U1560, and U1583 with good penetration (~130 to ~204 meters subbasement), but at the youngest ~7 Ma Site U1559, only ~43 m of basement penetration was achieved in this initial attempt. Geophysical wireline logs were aquired at Sites U1583 and U1560. Expeditions 390 and 393 established legacy sites available for future deepening and downhole basement hydrothermal and microbiological experiments at Sites U1557, U1560, and U1559 on 61, 15, and 7 Ma crust, respectively.