Behind the Science – Amazing JR

If you are taking part in an IODP expedition and you are a science teacher who only had the chance to read in the textbooks about research on the seafloor, it is quite impossible not to fall in love with the JOIDES Resolution. Do you want some reasons? Here is the interview with our Operation Superintendent Stephen Midgley who is always ready to explain the on going operations and to delight you with some amazing facts about the JR.


Q: How many expedition have you taken part in?

S: 25 Expeditions plus a 2 year period in the shipyard during the most recent conversion of the JOIDES Resolution

Q: What is your job on the JOIDES Resolution? What is your educational background?

S: Operation Superintendent in charge of 1) directing the main subcontractor Siem Offshore (vessel owner) in the expedition work 2) directing our other subcontractor, Schlumberger in the logging work done on the expedition 3) Contracting officer’s Technical Representative – oversee the execution of the work according to the contract.

My Education: Bachelor in Science Degree. Marine Engineering from the United States Merchant Marine Academy

(Stephen trying to explain me how we can take back on the ship the core barrel. We broke a piece involved in this operation during the expedition and a ship from Hong Kong came to bring us a new piece. Fortunately we were not so far away from shore)


Q: What was the most difficult situation you’ve faced during your your expeditions with IODP?

S: I’m not sure that there is a single most difficult situation, they are all unique and quite difficult to compare. Here are some examples

1. Most expensive failure: loss of reentry system on Exp 349, loss of 800 m of drill pipe, loss of BHA and loss of at least 10 days of operation spent making the reentry system. The drill string was inadvertently cemented into the reentry system as we tried to cement the casing into place.

2. Loss of a nuclear source on Exp 342 – Newfoundland Drift. The logging tool became stuck in the bottom of the BHA with 17 m sticking out the bottom. When we cleared the seafloor, the logging tools snapped off. We were required to look for the tools.

3. Loss of an osmo sampler string (samples from an in place cork in Costa Rica). The osmo sampler string made it all the way to the surface and was then lost when the retrieval line broke. The osmo sampler string fell all the way to the seafloor. We then did a grid search in 4000 m of water, found the string and with a grapple on the camera retrieved it back to surface.

4. Fishing operation on Expedition 360 – Indian Ridge. We lost 4 cones in the hole and had to make multiple fishing trips to retrieve hardware broken and lost in the hole. We eventually cleaned up the hole and continued coring.

5. FAD (Fishing Aggregation Device). On Lesser Antilles a FAD drifted into our drill string and wrapped itself around the drill string as we were coring. It took 24 hours of rig time to unravel all the polypropylene rope from the drill string.

6. We been stuck numerous time and have had to sever the pipe to become unstuck. Each event loses around 100,000 USD in the hole.

(Picture took from a drone flying above the JR. Credit: Jiansong Zhang)

Q: Steve, can you dazzle us with impressive information and statistics about the JOIDES Resolution and the ODP/IODP/IODP programs?

S: A. The practical operating depth of combined water depth and penetration is between 6K and 7K. We always have enough drill pipe on board for each expedition, but a failure at maximum depths could cause drilling operation to stop for up to a year. Our pipe is very specialized and has to be made for us.

B. The ship was built in 1978

C. We generate enough power to supply a small city (around 10 thousands homes)

D. We can generate almost 7000 liters of drinking water in 1 hour or 168000 liters in 1 day.  We can only store enough drinking water for around 5 days with a full crew/science party on board. All of our water at sea is generated from sea water (distillation). (See the post ” water in the sea”)

E. We can store 3,75 million liters of fuel on board. We burn around 35 metric tons of fuel a day while we are underway and around 18 metric tons a day while on station and around 8 metric tons/day while in port.

F. Our mud pumps and piping are capable of pumping up to 330 bar

G. Our cement pumps and piping are capable of pumping up to 660 bar

H. The top of our derrick is around 57,9 m above the water line (variable with draft)

I. The Bridge of the Americas, across the Panama Canal is around 63 m above the water line (variable with tides).

J. The JOIDES Resolution has crossed 80 degrees N which is only about 600 km from the North Pole (Leg 151 – the first expedition I sailed on!)

Maybe now, you can partially understand why it is impossible to not fall in love with the JOIDES Resolution!