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We were drilling in the central part of the Atlantic Ocean. It was late at night and out of the darkness came on a freighter passing by and he was a little I suppose interested to see a joining shift for the drilling rig all lit up looking a bit like a Christmas tree out in the middle of the Atlantic. So he signaled to us by way of the lights and asked us what we were doing. And what our name was and we told him where the glow my challenger and we were drilling a hole in the bottom of the ocean. He didn't reply right away. Finally he replied Why. And our officer in charge came up. For the real. Answer. You said to find out what's there. In a program of staggering complexity the gloom Our challenger has crisscrossed both the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans sinking its trail through thousands of feet of open ocean to obtain sample cores of the earth beneath the sea. What manner of ship is this unique vessel and one of the purposes and the results of its exploration of. The deep sea drilling project is the subject of this week's edition of down to the sea. It's home for the gay and a gallon bar. A brisk going to rattling brains a gallant crew and a captain to carry me over the sea to carry me over the seas my boys to my own true love so gay. We're taking a trip on a government ship ten thousand miles away and it's blow your winds high ho. It's a roaming I will go I'll stay no more on England's shores
so let your music play off on the morning train to cross the raging main. I am on the road to my own true love. Ten thousand miles away. My true love she is beautiful my true love she is fair. Her eyes are blue as the violets who run Crimson is her hair and Crimson is her hair and my boy's and while eyes sing this Les she is doing the grand in a distant land ten thousand miles away. The sun may shine in the London fog and the River Thames run clear the ocean Brian may turn to wine and I might forget my beer I might forget my beer my boy is in the landlord's quarter day but I'll never forget my own sweet heart. Ten thousand miles away. The deep sea drilling project maintains its offices in a rambling building on the grounds of the
Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego where we talk to project director Daryl sale. We asked him to tell us just exactly what the project is and how it is funded by deep sea drilling project. He is. Working under a grant from. And they have this grant not to grant a contract. With NSF. University of California. And as they have are engaged in a private contract. Under a funding of approximately 12 million Tigs. Has. Turned scripts has been designated as the operator for this contract is where we enter into the picture. We are coach and scientific programs are laid out by committees. For the major. Oceanographic institutions which go under the name Joeys you know an oceanographic.
Institution. For deep. Samples. We take their programs and try to put them into actual operation. This is being done with a converted drilling should go more challenging. This year has a standard. Of your. Vessel approximately four hundred sixty five feet wide. Ten thousand five hundred times displacement. It's been modified for our use. Such things as placing Corps in labs on board the vessel for leave taking samples and taking them to some other sophisticated gear on board so that positioning system which you need for my particular operation this drilling ship was named after the vessel that is generally recognized as the first full time oceanographic research ship the HMS Challenger which embarked on its historic journey of research 100 years ago.
But the present day challenger is not a general purpose research ship. It has a very specific job to do let deep sea drilling project chief scientist Dr. Emma a Peterson describe the work in general we're interested in the history of the development and the age of the ocean basins. This is not at the present time easily related to the age of the earth. It appears that the ocean basins as we know them now are relatively young features and all of the results of the deep sea drilling project tend to confirm this belief. One of the most important ideas that we are testing and in fact have relatively well confirmed is the idea of sea floor spreading or alternatively of continental drift sea floor spreading. Apparently being the mechanism of continental drift I might add that this rate of spreading so to speak of the sea floor motion of the continents is a very rapid process by geological standards. It's far greater for instance than
the usual rate of erosion of mountains. It's far greater than the rate of formation of sediments at the bottom of the sea floor. In about the time it takes the sea floor to spread perhaps a thousand miles you will accumulate only about a thousand feet of sediment on the sea floor co-ordinating staff geologist Dr. Terry Edgar into the conversation as we posed a question about discoveries made by the challenger during its deep sea coring operations. I suppose one of the most dramatic finds to be found today was the discovery of oil in the deepest part of the Gulf of Mexico. Here they drill a small rise in the ocean floor that resemble very very closely the salt domes of the Gulf Coast area. They drilled in about 12000 feet of water about 400 feet into the ocean floor. And discovered a typical capped rock. That is normally found associated with salt domes in the Gulf Coast region. And this capped rock was saturated with real
honest to goodness crude oil. Now is this oil something that could be of commercial value or at this point is it at such a depth as to make this impractical. Well clearly the deep oceans are important prospects for exploration for petroleum. The circumstances under which this oil was found in the Sigsbee Noles associated with a salt dome is an exceedingly encouraging situation. Undoubtedly in my opinion we are looking at a situation here where we quite possibly developed a or opened up a new petroleum province. Also the same kind of structure is found in other places in the deep sea. For example in the Mediterranean. And around the area of Australia there. Certainly however
is no ability right now to produce oil from the deep sea. What is needed is the ability to case these holes adequately to put the right kind of valves for control of high pressure. There is the need to develop the ability to get back into the same hole in order to drill deeper into the sediments of the earth and above all the need to buy this petroleum material to the surface or to the Continent in some way to get it home to where it can be used. There is no doubt in my mind that this ability will be forthcoming over the next decade and that the oceans provide a vast opportunity in this regard. We asked about the glow more challenges specifically and what makes it such an unusual ship. Yes very unique indeed. It's the only vessel it has been designed that will maintain position in this depth of water without an anchoring
system. This is done by means of sound sources which are placed on the bottom of the ocean and the sound sources emit a signal which is listened to by hydrophones that are on the whole of the globe are Challenger and the signal then is triangulated. That is the distance to the bottom in the position over the bottom is determined by computer using the base of the triangle which is the distance between these listening devices these hydrophones on the bottom of the ship and the calculation is carried on by a computer on board ship which then commands directly the thrusting mechanisms of all the main propulsion screws which drive the ship forward forwards and backwards and the side propulsion units the so-called tunnel thrusters which go through the hull of the ship sideways and can in fact be used Steam sideways. Another way of considering this question a
triangulation of the ship's hydrophones. Any three of which are used any one time is to think of the hydrophones as listening for the sound from a point source on the bottom of the ocean. And if the vessel is positioned directly above the sound source then all three of these hydrophones will receive the signal at precisely the same time. If on the other hand the ship is off position then the. Hydrophones will hear the signal at slightly different times and after removing the effect of the ship's roll the computer can calculate the amount of offset. When it's working properly. We are fairly assured that our positioning is with in 100 or so feet continuously. If you can move 100 feet either side of a point then the drilling pipe has to be somewhat flexible doctor and your best adjoining pipe itself is
very flexible. And if you can imagine a pipe only nine inches in diameter extending or about three miles of the ocean floor then 100 feet is really rather a negligible. Situation of dimension shall we say. Can be compared to standing on top of an eight story building and trying to turn a piece of spaghetti 8 stories high and spec to drill on the floor below. And this is. In effect by dimension a correct analogy but there are some other factors that should be considered. The drill string itself has some very heavy drill pipe. Mounted on the bottom. That acts rather like a way to make the whole drill pipe act like a pin you know. In this way then you can drill with the weight of the what they call drill collars on the bottom of the assembly rather than having to press down three miles of pipe drill. There'll soon this went on to discuss some of the additional scientific equipment aboard the Challenger. We have a very complete APD system which gives us a picture of the cloud cover.
And this is used by NASA weatherman who remains on board at all times. He also functions as a standard weather man turning in his readings every year whenever they're required. You know Ed. We have a sat nav navigation system which gives us very accurate positioning taking its reading from satellite navigation satellites we carry communication equipment which is over and above normally carried on commercial ships we have to get us so that we can have daily communication with here no we don't any here at Scripps for your answer you covered your answer years ago our challenge or never you answer your the gov our talented devotee of every day. Negative pattern negative. No traffic no traffic or at an agony of traffic here. Negative traffic go ahead. Thanks.
Her her her right. Right here they go I want to check where they are now on record where there is no way I want her. I w w d e the radio station of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography provides a vital service with them between ships in the far flung research. And we board that low my challenger on a drilling site in the deep sea. I am. Eh eh. They were in there and you can hardly. Imagine
the glee parade which we're just learning the following powers that we don't get rid. Of really are unable. We do the following powers that. Actually turned our back on the band on the bottom of the real time which a chance. To turn and reload. When you heard the air playing the lifter and need to fire
over into the fabric and the tremendous buying that you heard was the fire coming out off the rack holdin the pipe shoes which would sit in the skate and push down the bend in the during the running of the home and the rumble that you have heard is the skate which takes about about an American wish to endure. At different periods of history different forms of oceanic scientific research come to the forefront two centuries ago Captain James Cook was exploring and mapping the last of the unknown sea is and the techniques of accurate delegation were coming into their own. The two dimensions of latitude and longitude. One century ago the HMS challenger left England on the first major oceanographic expedition an expedition that determined the broad contours of the ocean bottom adding the third
dimension of depth to man's knowledge of the sea. Now the gloom or Challenger is once again exploring the sea. Introducing a fourth dimension that of time. By extracting core samples of the sea floor it is answering questions about the origin of the ocean basins what they were like in the past. Khali are moving and what history their settlements record. The deep sea drilling project and exciting modern challenge. Lord Mayor Giuliani. Saying. A lot.
A I. Am. Saying. We do a preliminary analysis of the core of the glow much challenger.
We examine it from the point of view of apparent ology and sediment ology and then samples are also taken preserved and when the ship arrives at shore to send out to laboratories that are specially equipped to do more detailed analysis in addition to studying just the glories we. Are also attempting to study the sediment in place. That is by a proximity sensor in a sense well logging in the usual sense that the oil industry does it. It permits us to study not only the sedimentary material that we have recovered but the sedimentary material that we have not recovered the entire section of the geologic column. We can say that the earth's surface is a very dynamic and mobile surface. If you feel secure today. Hang on. Ok seriously.
The earth's surface is moved very mobile and based on our studies and studies of early geophysical work we have found that the sea floor for instance to parts of the sea floor may be separating from each other at the rate as high as 12 centimeters percent per year. Now in geologic time this is a lot of motion and this is going on continuously. And when you consider that in your lifetime this continent may shift approximately your height this geologically is a very rapid motion so that we can anticipate more of what we think we see in the past occurring in the future that the continents will continue to move and that there will be the destruction of some of the ocean basin as the continent overrides it and the creation of new ocean basin as new material is brought to the surface the ocean floor. I
think that you have to keep in mind that in geologic terms. We're talking in terms of millions of years rather than even thousands of years. And that I think it's. Rather intriguing that despite the fact the ocean floor is moving this rapidly and that the continents are moving so rapidly in geological concepts that this has been a rather late discovery you know examination of the earth's surface. One of the most important results of this program is that we have found out that we can drill in the deep parts of the ocean basins that we can maintain a ship over one specific point in the ocean basin while we drill. We have found that oil may exists in deep oceanic conditions at the two and I thought of by
many. We have found that there is very strong evidence now. That the continents were once joined and have subsequently separated. We have confirmed the outline of the sedimentary distribution in the North Atlantic and South Atlantic on its approach to scales so that people interested in economic exploration will have the fundamental concepts of what they are looking for in a geographical region. And I would also like to say that at this point our drilling program is of a reconnaissance nature and as a reconnaissance tool and I knew one I might add it has proven extremely valuable. It has given us now another dimension in examining the ocean basins and that is one of time. We can now examine the history of the ocean basin rather than just
what is there presently. In the future we are looking forward to an extended 30 month program with which we will drill in the Atlantic the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The emphasis will be search shifted slightly. We will concentrate less in the central part of the ocean basins and more along the continental margins to examine the interaction of the great mass of continents and the ocean basin crust. Here we expect we will find more interesting economic possibilities and also be able to delineate to a finer degree the history of the continents based on the sediments that they are shedding into the ocean basins. Thank you.
We've been listening to Daryl Sams Dr. M. N. A Peterson and Dr. Terry Edgar discussing the continuing efforts to uncover the secrets of the sea floor through the deep sea drilling project. Thanks. Down to the sea is a production of San Diego's public radio station. San Diego State College. These programs are prepared for broadcast. With the assistance of Ken Cramer. They featured traditional music of the CD arranged and performed by. Narrative and. Passages. This series of programs on oceanography today was made possible in part by a grant
from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This is the national educational radio network.
Down to the sea
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Deep Sea Drilling Project
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Down to the sea; 9; Deep Sea Drilling Project,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 9, 2023,
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