28 May 2018

An Irish-led international expedition set sail to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

On the 16th of May An Irish-led international expedition, TOSCA, with 13 scientists from 9 institutions and 5 different countries set sail from Galway to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge onboard the RV Celtic Explorer, to explore the geological and biological processes at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone.

The TOSCA proposal (Tectonic Spreading and the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone) was put together by a group of scientists and academics. The proposal we submitted and got funding under the National Development Plan Ship-time Programme was based on initial AORA-acquired data by the INFOMAR programme at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone and builds on that high resolution dataset, which revealed a spectacular landscape with 4000m high mounds rising from the seabed to 600m below the sea surface. Initial interpretation of that dataset showed us that it was worth visiting with a fully-equipped research expedition in order to understand the geological processes that have created the extraordinary landscape there. Tectonic processes, related to the stretching of the Atlantic Ocean at this location, have created 4000m high mounds that we expect reveal rocks that are created much deeper in the continental crust and upper mantle (several kilometres below the seabed), making them now accessible to us to sample and map in order to understand better the processes that create them. Topographies as high and as steep as these mounds are often subject to catastrophic flank collapses, underwater landslides, that have the potential to generate tsunamis that could traverse the Atlantic Ocean in any direction, towards western Europe, Canada, USA, Greenland, etc. In order to understand these geological processes and characterise the habitats that like living in these environments we will collect more bathymetric data around the AORA-acquired dataset, seismic profiles, video footage, rock and biological samples and sediment cores.

Funding has come from the National Development Plan Ship-time Programme and from the German Science Foundation (DFG). The planning and organisation of the expedition has been coordinated by the Marine Institute.