The calm before the storm?……Nope!!

The “Pre-OSP” at the MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen, Germany, does not only include measuring Thermal Conductivity (TC) of the full cores from IODP Expedition 381 by the European Petrophysics Consortium (EPC) Team (see, but is a very busy preparation phase for the Expedition´s Onshore Science Party (OSP).

The preparations at MARUM ( started many months ago, when for example we reserved the accommodation for the Science Party, this at a stage when we did not know the exact timing/duration of the OSP or the exact amount of recovered core! We also reserved numerous lab and office spaces ahead of time, as well as measurement slots in a variety of MARUM laboratories (e.g., core sampling, core logging and scanning, geochemistry, geotechnics, mineralogy (XRD), palynology, paleomagnetics, petrophysics), to ensure that sufficient capacity will be available for the OSP for the IODP-MSP standard measurements.

Right after the end of the offshore phase on Dec 18, the expedition data were made available for the Science Party on a MARUM server. This was key, meaning that all science party members could immediately access the information required to revise their preliminary sample requests, which were initially submitted before the offshore phase. The beginning of the New Year was quite exciting as the expedition cores arrived at MARUM on January 3! The two refrigerated containers were unloaded instantly and Alex and Holger safely transported the 21 core boxes, into the reefer of the IODP Bremen Core Repository (BCR) in what seemed to be no time.

Since the Autumn we intensified our preparations, preparing the OSP workstations in a variety of labs, setting up IT hardware in numerous offices and labs, loading the latest curation database version on the computers, testing equipment, checking our stocks of consumables, discussing how to optimise core-flow plans and when and how to integrate outreach activities. Equally important is to arrange procedures and reservations with the Mensa, where everybody has lunch from Monday to Friday! Combined with grocery shopping for coffee breaks and snacks and catering for the weekend meals, it is quite a complex and intense logistical exercise! Nevertheless, we are still working regular hours (ok, some of the time) and not in shifts yet. This will change for all of us later this week!

Successively, during the month of January the sample requests were shared with the Co-Chief scientists Lisa and Donna as well as the EPMs Gareth and Jez. Together with Ursula they form the so-called Sample Allocation Committee (SAC). The SAC establishes a project-specific sampling strategy and makes decisions on project-specific sample requests received before the drilling project, during the drilling project including the OSP, and during the moratorium period, that is twelve months after the end of the OSP.

In these last few days before the start of the OSP the setup of some of the work stations are still to be finalised, but all of us are very excited to finally start splitting and processing the new cores and looking forward to finally meeting the whole Science Party.

Last but not least we are looking forward to continue working and collaborating with the wider ESO team, which comprises colleagues from the BGS, the EPC, and us at MARUM. All of those involved in the OSP – scientists, ESO staff (including the twelve University of Bremen Geosciences student helpers) – comprise a team of more than 70 people, who will closely work on processing and describing the 1645 meters of cores and samples in two shifts over the course of a full month!

Ursula Roehl.

Image captions: Beakers all ready for the moisture and density (MAD) analysis on Expedition 381 samples; Ongoing preparations in the core description lab; The core splitter nice and shiny, but still asleep; Earlier stage of microscopes set up in the core description lab; Petrophysics equipment awaiting installation; Patrizia unpacking and assembling microscope equipment; The calm before the storm, scientists’ office not claimed yet  (All images U.Röhl, ECORD/IODP)


Exp. 381 core boxes on arrival at MARUM (U.Prange, ECORD/IODP)

Dancing in the reefer

Unloaded core sections in thre reefer, waiting to be measured and then put back to boxes. Photo: N. Denchik, ECORD/IODP

The almost a month-long “Pre-OSP” phase started on the 3rd of January 2018 at the MARUM institute in Bremen. The Pre-OSP this time focuses on measuring Thermal Conductivity (TC) of the cores from IODP Expedition 381 – the last measurements that require the cores to be whole – and preparation for the OSP (Onshore Science Party) in February when they will be split.

We, the “TC measuring” team (Laurence, Nataliya, Malgorzata) and Sally (EPC coordinator) arrived at the MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences in the morning of the 3rd of January, after leaving home on the 2nd – almost right after New Year celebrations! The beginning of the New Year was an exciting one as we were busy preparing our workspace for measurements in the four degrees celsius reefer, testing equipment and finalising plans.

As always, we were warmly welcomed by the MARUM staff, and we spent some time with them chatting over good coffee and cookies during breaks. These two days (2nd and 3rd of January) seem now like a relaxing warm-up before the work on continuous measurements in the following weeks, and the excellent evening dinners we had (traditional German food) seem like an unreal dream because…

…in order to complete TC measurements on the huge number of recovered cores from IODP Expedition 381 Corinth Active Rift Development, measurements are undertaken round the clock… in twelve hour shifts.

Laurence is on shift during the daytime (5 AM to 5 PM), and Nataliya together with Malgorzata work at night (5 PM to 5 AM).

TC measurements are recorded using the full space line source, the VLQ or “needle probe”, inserted into the cores along the same plane that they will be split. Before starting measurements the equipment was checked for calibration and then checked again using dummy cores: one made up of saturated and compacted topsoil and another of water-saturated clean sand. Both very different in terms of TC response…

Cores from IODP Expedition 381 that have been measured thus far have been full of surprises. Results have kept us on our toes in terms of gathering high quality data, and served to heighten our anticipation for finally splitting the cores in February and getting to see with our own eyes what is inside.

One thing that we have learned over the past couple of weeks: the better results – the better mood of the Pre-OSP team members! When we obtained the first measurement with a solid data-set, we started to dance in the reefer! Which is by the way a very good way of keeping yourself warm. That’s it – dancing, some yoga, jumping and jogging around the reefer’s shelfs are the top activities we do to keep ourselves warm during the long periods of time that we have to spend in four degrees Celsius. Though, unloading or re-loading core sections out of and into the transport boxes is a bit more physically engaging way of keeping the circulation flowing. Laurence once counted how many core sections he moved from and out the boxes during one shift and the number exceeds 300! It’s definitely good exercise. We will have some more muscles after Pre-OSP, that is for sure!

We celebrated Laurence’s Birthday on the 15th of January, at 5 am in the reefer in four degrees Celsius. Not everyone gets Birthday wishes at 5 am!

We do not have time to explore Bremen at this time. Twelve hour shifts leave time only for TC measurements and some sleep. Not a lot of sleep by the way, but the results of TC measurements are their own reward!

Great start for Laurence’s birthday morning. Photo: N. Denchik, ECORD/IODP