Scientific Drill Ship to Be Reborn

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Science  23 Dec 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5756, pp. 1890
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5756.1890b

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA— The JOIDES Resolution ends its 20-year career as the world's lone deep-sea scientific drilling ship next week. But the National Science Foundation (NSF) hopes that $115 million will bring her back into the water, better than ever.

An NSF-funded group has contracted with the ship's owner to rebuild and upgrade the Resolution, beginning next fall. When the work has been completed, it would join the Japanese behemoth Chikyu late in 2007, ending an 18-month drilling hiatus and beginning the most ambitious ocean drilling ever attempted.

The renamed ship will be more capable and comfortable, NSF's Assistant Director for Geosciences Margaret Leinen told an audience last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting here. The ship, representing the U.S. contribution to the International Ocean Drilling Program, will have 50% more shipboard laboratory space, an enhanced drilling system, and a greater variety of analytical instrumentation. But the biggest applause greeted her description of the improved creature comforts: No more four-person staterooms or eight-person bathrooms, Leinen promised, and there will be a sauna. To stay on schedule, however, NSF needs $42 million from Congress in its next budget to complement what it has received in the past 2 years.

The half-billion-dollar Chikyu, which during a shakedown cruise this month retrieved its first sediment core, will become fully operational in September 2007. Its first challenge will be a series of holes working up to a superdeep hole into the fault that generates great earthquakes off the coast of Japan. But more work lies beyond that 6-year project, Y. Tatsumi of the Japan Drilling Earth Science Consortium reminded the audience. He urged the community to begin planning other ambitious projects, including drilling through the ocean's rocky crust. An ill-fated attempt to pierce the ocean crust (Science, 18 April 2003, p. 410) 40 years ago gave rise to modern scientific drilling.

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