The goal of Expedition 331 is to directly sample hydrothermally active mounds in the Okinawa Trough to obtain evidence for microbial communities. This includes variations in biomass and species diversity, as well as the function and impact of such active subseafloor microbial ecosystems underneath the hydrothermal vents. The results are expected, not only to provide clues to the role of a subsurface biosphere left untouched deep under the sea, but also to help understand the mechanism of microbial methane generation and gas transport in seafloor sediments. The expedition also expects to reveal the relationship between the extent of subseafloor microbial communities and methane commonly found at high concentration in the hydrothermal fluids, and the formation of hydrothermal mineral deposits.
Coring up to 50 meters below seafloor (mbsf) is planned for sites on the hydrothermal mounds or in adjacent areas. Following the coring, steel casing pipes will be installed within the boreholes for future installation of an in-situ incubator.
On the margin of the hydrothermal vent field, hydrothermal fluids mix into sea water in subseafloor sediment, creating a unique and extremely active microbial environment (a subsurface analogue to surface estuary). Target drilling depths in this area are 100 mbsf and 200 mbsf. Coring and casing pipe installation are also planned.
|8 August - 29 August, 2010||Preparation for the expedition at Shimizu port|
29 August - 31 August
|Transit from Shimizu Port to Shingu Port|
|Mid-August||Helicopter underwater escape and sea survival training for science party|
|1 September - 5 September||Material loading and embarkation of science party (at Shingu Port)|
|5 September||Sailing out from Shingu Port|
|9 September -||Arrive at the drill sites at the Okinawa Trough and drilling operation start|
|18 September||Port call at Nago, Okinawa
Disembarkation of filming/interviewing crew
|3 October 2010||Completion of Expedition 331|
*The above schedule is liable to change depending on weather and other operational requirements.
* The above operations are subjected to change due to weather and other operational requirements.
Ken Takai, Program Director, Institute of Biogeosciences (Biogeos), JAMSTEC
Another Co-Chief Scientist: TBA
An international team of scientists, composed of about 20 people from IODP member countries, will join the expedition.