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Expedition 302 geophysics: integrating past data with new results1

Martin Jakobsson,2 Tom Flodén,2 and the Expedition 302 Scientists2


In preparation for IODP Expedition 302, Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX), a site survey database comprising geophysical and geological data from the Lomonosov Ridge was compiled. The accumulated database includes data collected from ice islands, icebreakers, and submarines from 1961 to 2001. In addition, seismic reflection profiles were collected during Expedition 302 that complement the existing seismic reflection data and facilitate integration between the acoustic stratigraphy and the Expedition 302 drill cores. An overview of these data is presented in this chapter.

It is well recognized that collecting geophysical data in ice-covered seas, in particular the Arctic Ocean, is a challenging endeavor. This is because much of the Arctic Ocean is continuously covered with ice thicknesses that vary from 1 to 6 m. Over the continental shelves, sea ice can be absent during summer months, but it is present year-round in the central basins. This ice cover is the most dominant feature of the Arctic Ocean environment. It circulates in the ocean basin in two main circulation patterns: the Transpolar Drift and the Beaufort Gyre (see the “Expedition 302 summary” chapter; Rudels et al., 1996).

Expedition 302 sites are located within the less severe of these two ice circulation systems, the Transpolar Drift, which primarily moves sea ice from the shelves where it is formed (the Laptev and East Siberian Seas) across the basin and exits through the Fram Strait. During late summer, concentrations of Arctic sea ice can be <100% (10/10 ice cover), making it possible for icebreakers to operate. Average ice concentrations in the central Arctic Ocean during summer months can locally vary from partially open water (6/10) to completely ice covered (10/10). This sea-ice cover can move at speeds up to 0.5 kt.

Early Arctic Ocean geophysical exploration was performed from ice-drift stations (Weber and Roots, 1990). However, the tracks from these drifting ice stations were controlled “by the whims of nature” (Jackson et al., 1990), preventing detailed, systematic surveys of predetermined target areas. These ice-drift stations were set up on stable icebergs that were trapped in sea ice and moved generally with the large drift patterns, but locally they were erratic, so preselected locations could not be surveyed. In the late 1980s, single icebreakers began to be used for oceanographic survey work in the Arctic Ocean. Between 1991 and 2001, four scientific icebreaker expeditions to the Lomonosov Ridge took place. These cruises all experienced local sea-ice conditions varying between 8/10 and 10/10. During these expeditions, towed geophysical equipment was occasionally damaged or lost, either because of a rapidly closing wake caused by local ice pressure or because ice had cut the air gun array.

Conventionally powered icebreakers reached as far as the North Pole for the first time during the 1991 Expedition (Andersen and Carlsonn, 1992; Fütterer, 1992). Geophysical results from this expedition collected two important reflection profiles, AWI-91090 and AWI-91091, that crossed the Lomonosov Ridge between 87° and 88°N. These profiles imaged a ~450 m thick, well-stratified and apparently undisturbed drape of sediments overlying a prominent acoustic unconformity (Jokat et al., 1992) that spawned the idea to conduct a paleoceanographic drilling expedition to this Ridge.

The use of US Navy nuclear submarines for geophysical mapping was implemented through the Science Ice Exercise program (SCICEX) (Newton, 2000). The development of the Seafloor Characterization and Mapping Pods (SCAMP), which hold a Chirp subbottom profiler, swath bathymetric profiler, and side scan sonar, was an essential part of the SCICEX program (Chayes et al., 1996). In 1999, the Lomonosov Ridge geophysical database was augmented with acoustic data acquired during the SCICEX program using the SCAMP system mounted on the US nuclear submarine USS Hawkbill (Edwards and Coakley, 2003).

1Jakobsson, M., Flodén, T., and the Expedition 302 Scientists, 2006. Expedition 302 geophysics: integrating past data with new results. In Backman, J., Moran, K., McInroy, D.B., Mayer, L.A., and the Expedition 302 Scientists, Proc. IODP, 302: Edinburgh (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc.). doi:10.2204/​iodp.proc.302.102.2006

2Expedition 302 Scientists’ addresses.

Publication: 7 March 2006
MS 302-101