IODP Proceedings    Volume contents     Search


Site 3951

Expedition 336 Scientists2

Site summary

Investigating coupled geochemical and microbial processes in active aquifers within the upper oceanic crust is the main science goal of Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 336, and the primary objective is initiating multilevel subseafloor borehole observatories (CORKs). We planned to install one observatory in the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Hole 395A (664 m deep) in the southeastern part of North Pond. Hole 395A was drilled during DSDP Leg 45 in 1975–1976, was logged repeatedly, and was then equipped with a first-generation CORK in 1997 during Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Leg 174B (Becker, Malone, et al., 1998). Hole 395A is located in an area of exceptionally low conductive heat flow (Langseth et al., 1992) due to cooling of the uppermost basement by cold seawater, which recharges basement and is inferred to flow underneath the sediment cover in a northerly direction.

At the beginning of our operations at Site 395, the old Leg 174B CORK, including the entire 603 m internal string with thermistors, a data logger, and pressure sensors, was successfully pulled out of Hole 395A and secured on board the R/V JOIDES Resolution. The pressure and temperature data were downloaded, the thermistors were cut out of the string, and sections of the string were sampled for microbiological analyses. Further microbiological samples were obtained from the CORK’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) platform and wellhead elements. The hole was then logged with a new in situ deep ultraviolet (UV) (<250 nm) fluorescence tool for detecting microbial life in ocean floor boreholes—the Deep Exploration Biosphere Investigative tool (DEBI-t). Other logging data obtained included spectral gamma ray and temperature. A rock ledge in the borehole at ~180 meters below seafloor (mbsf) had to be bridged by lowering the logging bit to ~198 mbsf, but then an open-hole section of 405.7 m was logged (total depth reached was 603.5 m). The lowermost ~50 m of the hole was not logged because it was found to be filled with rubble during Leg 174B. The logging results are consistent with the data obtained by Bartetzko et al. (2001) and allow the distribution of massive basalt, pillow basalts, altered lava flows, and rubble zones (sedimentary breccia and hyaloclastite) to be distinguished.

A 530 m long, multilevel CORK observatory was assembled to perform long-term coupled microbiological, biogeochemical, and hydrological experiments. Assembling the observatory entailed preparing osmotically driven fluid samplers, microbial incubation experiments, seven temperature sensors, and two oxygen sensors. Packers at mid-point depths of 111, 149, and 463 mbsf were installed to isolate the borehole into three intervals characterized by different thermal and fluid flow regimes. Umbilicals containing fluid sampling lines attached to the outside of the CORK casing were designed to reach depths of 120, 430, and 506 mbsf. OsmoSamplers for fluid geochemistry and microbiology were lowered on Spectra rope inside the slotted or perforated CORK casing to sample four intervals: 112–140, 233–261, 409–438, and 491–527 mbsf. The CORK wellhead was instrumented with sensors for monitoring pressures in the four zones isolated by packers and with OsmoSamplers for retrieving fluid samples from the lowermost zone.

The assembly and installation proceeded well until the CORK head broke off during the final step of releasing the CORK running tool. The CORK head experienced forces that bent the wellhead and severed its 5 inch pipe ~4 m below the top of the reentry cone, parting the Spectra rope and the umbilicals and leaving the downhole tool string in place. On the basis of the portion of the CORK wellhead recovered, the upper end of the remaining 5 inch diameter cup packer subassembly near the seafloor (5 inch pipe mandrel) is not completely rounded; however, it may be open enough to allow recovery of the internal downhole samplers, sensors, and experiments in the future. Several stainless steel tubes likely extend above the cup packers and the top of the 5 inch casing. Damage to the stabilizing fins above the cup packers suggests that they may have been too large in diameter to enter the throat of the reentry cone (DSDP documentation indicated a 24 inch diameter, now thought to be less), which may have been the root cause of the installation failure. Indeed, similar damage was observed on the Leg 174B CORK that was recovered (it, too, did not fully land). The CORK pressure logging system was recovered along with the broken-off wellhead. The recorded data do not definitively resolve whether the downhole CORK packers actually inflated; however, no data are otherwise available to suggest that the packers did not inflate as intended. A plan is being formulated to recover the downhole instrument string in 4 y with an ROV.

1 Expedition 336 Scientists, 2012. Site 395. In Edwards, K.J., Bach, W., Klaus, A., and the Expedition 336 Scientists, Proc. IODP, 336: Tokyo (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Management International, Inc.). doi:10.2204/​iodp.proc.336.103.2012

2 Expedition 336 Scientists’ addresses.

Publication: 16 November 2012
MS 336-103