Briefing from Mike Cheadle, Chief Scientist (As told by Slackjaw Sally)

By Theresa Williams

These are the voyages of the research vessel Atlantis. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to boldly go where no one has gone before and figure out how Earth’s crust was formed. Ocean crust is the last frontier of plate techtonics – 60% of Earth’s crust is under the ocean, yet we know more about the topography of the moon than we do about the topography of the ocean crust.

OK, so here’s the game plan. We’ll deploy the magnetometer and start the multibeam as soon as we are in international waters. When we get to site B, we’ll send out Sentry to magnetically map the cliff face, sniff for chemical evidence of vents, and map the seafloor to look for good outcrops for Jason. Once we have good maps and Jason/Medea is ready, we’ll deploy Jason to collect rocks. Any questions? Good. Everyone on shifts so we can continue the work 24/7.

Why this work? Why here? Why now? Glad you asked. Very little work has been done on the gabbro layer of ocean crust because it is the deepest layer and difficult to reach. Typical crust is 6-7 kilometers thick but at Pito Deep, we’ll be able to sample 3 kilometers down in the rift and hopefully find a boatload of gabbro. There are two main models for how oceanic crust forms, the gabbro-glacier flow model and the multiple sill model. We hope to collect enough evidence to suggest which model is most likely.

The humans are sciencing it up!