Expedition 395 is (Finally) Beginning

There is so much about this expedition that is amazing. Originally submitted as a proposal in 2004, Expedition 395 has been a 19-year journey for two of our researchers, Anne Briais who is a co-chief scientist onboard and the other, Bramley Murton, who is part of the onshore team. The proposal was resubmitted after a site survey in 2015 and was finally scheduled in 2020 as Expedition 395 for the summer of 2021. Because of the COVID -19 restrictions in place, the researchers were not allowed onboard for that expedition. It was named Expedition 395C and was run with a full cohort of laboratory technicians and one scientist in the science party, Leah LeVay, who was also the expedition project manager. Because of the reduction in personnel, some of the sites were not cored fully and the samples that were recovered had to continue to be analyzed at IODP (located at Texas A&M University). In the spring of 2022, the 395 Science Party travelled to College Station, Texas from all over the world and continued the analysis.

Members of the Exp 395 Science team (from L – Deborah Eaton, David McNamara, Chia-Yu Tien, Nicholas White, and Bramley Murton) work at IODP in College Station, TX to describe core from Exp 395C, a trip they were not allowed to take due to COVID-19 Restrictions.

The opportunity for the 395 team to go out and collect additional core this summer is more than welcome. These scientists have had the opportunity to analyze data from the 395C cores and that insight will help them understand the new core. The expedition is also planning to core a new location east of Greenland on the Eirik Drift. Expedition scientists are hoping to find some answers about the V-shaped Ridges and V-shaped Troughs that are found on either side of the Reykjanes Ridge. In addition to that, they will be examining the sediments in the Gardar, Bjorn, and Eirik drifts for clues to the changing deep ocean currents and ancient climates.

Dense cold water from the Arctic Ocean flows south through the Iceland-Faroe Ridge and the Denmark Strait into the North Atlantic. The height of the sea floor in these area influences the volume and speed of the water flowing through them. The data collected from the drifted sediments to the south will give scientists a good look at the history of the deep-water current strength because the faster the water flows, the coarser the sediments deposited become. By analyzing the composition of the minerals and microfossils of the deposit, the science team can determine its provenance (roughly where it came from and how old it is).

A section of the core taken from the Bjorn Drift ice 1554 showing different types of sediment that have been deposited and then mixed
A segment of core from site 1554 from the Bjorn Drift showing evidence of algal blooms (white layers)

The data obtained from the sediment in the 395C cores dates back to ~12.7 million years ago. This data gives an indication how the gateways from the Arctic to the North Atlantic have changed over this period of time. This may link to the activity of the mantle plume beneath Iceland because as the plume becomes more active, the seafloor around Iceland rises and inhibits the passage of water from the Arctic. The decrease of the cold bottom water from the north influences the water chemistry and therefore the habitat for many marine organisms. These historical changes may give a glimpse of what is to come as the ocean water warms due to climate change.

Jennifer Field
I have been a teacher of science for over 30 years and am passionate about engaging people of all ages with science. I currently work at Nipmuc Regional High School in Massachusetts.
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