Sampling – Day 43, 8/16/2009

Cores come in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when we are at a drilling site. They are processed round the clock by the technicians, and then the scientists begin the process of whole round testing. After they’ve had a chance to warm up to room temperature we split them into halves. One half is imaged, described and archived. The other half is the working half. What happens to it? In this blog I’ll try to describe the story of the working half.

After being cut, the halves are split up. The working half is placed in marked trays that are labeled 1-7 and CC for the core catcher. They are identical to the trays on the description table, but these are where the scientists get their hands dirty and really go to work. Each site (and each hole for that matter) is different. Depending on the areas of interest for the scientists or possible information we might find at a particular site and depth various requests are made. It is the job of the Staff Scientist to assemble all of those requests with the input of the sampling committee which includes the Staff Scientist, the Co-Chiefs and the Curator. The finished product is the sampling plan.

The sampling plan allows the scientists to ensure proper sampling on every core.

Posted near the sampling table, this plan is the blue print for what the scientists take from the working halves. Samples range from toothpick scrapes, plugs, wedges, scrapes to mini cores. Microbiologists often take whole round samples (these are taken on the catwalk before the properties have a chance to change). In hard rock they can take what are called slabs. Drop stones can be taken directly out of the working half.

A variety of tools are used to remove the samples, from spatulas to syringes.

A wide array of tools are available for taking many different types of samples from the cores.

The samples are sealed in various containers and some are kept in freezers or cold rooms to keep any chemical changes from occurring. Some of the samples are tested or studied on board, but many are sent to the scientists at their home labs.

After the samples are taken, the spots disturbed by sampling are marked with either foam inserts or plastic dividers marked for the science they are used for (ex: PAL for Paleo, PP for Physical Properties). The remaining core material is packaged and labeled in special “D” tubes just like the archive halves in case more detailed sampling is requested post cruise. The “D” tubes are packed into boxes to eventually be shipped to College Station where they are hermetically sealed and eventually stored by the shore based curators.

Here is a quick clip of me sampling with David Scholl, one of the physical properties scientists in Expedition 323.

Hopefully that gives you some insight into the sampling on board the JR. Soon I’ll show you some specific sampling and testing that is done with the core material.


Core Locations

Fascinating blog, science happening in real time!

My question is are you collecting cores near any undersea vents? If this is so, is it possible to obtain a few liters of "non-science mud" from such a location?

Thank you for your work and your possible reply.

Douglas Hopkins

Mud Collecting

The JR has collected samples near some undersea vents in the past, but not on this trip. I've been informed that they've even discovered some previously unknown vents in the past. The Bering Sea is a very benign location, in that it is free from a lot of vents, which is part of what makes it so interesting to study the sedimentation.

As far as samples to share... we don't collect anything that doesn't have a scientific purpose in mind. Samples can be requested through the IODP for specific scientific purposes (assuming you have a lab, expertise and funding) and educational purposes (you'd need a specific use and documented benefits). Thanks for reading!


Hi I was wondering if you would be able to get a video of the drilling operation. It would be interesting to see how they do it on a ship, and if it is very different than on land.


Sure thing Connie! We have several already uploaded on our YouTube page. You can view them here:

The one called Tripping Pipe shows the process of getting the drill pipe to the floor of the ocean.


Sure thing Connie! We have several already uploaded on our YouTube page. You can view them here:

The one called Tripping Pipe shows the process of getting the drill pipe to the floor of the ocean.


Hello my name is Marika Rosser
Is it hard frilling holes into the sea?


The drillers work all day and night when we are on site. They have a variety of jobs from monitoring drill position to actually attaching the pipe pieces that extend into the sea floor. It is a tough job. The act of drilling is run by power from the ship so we don't see how much force goes in to it, but at the moment the drilling is taking place more than 3.5 kilometers below the ship! Pretty impressive.