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On the wayMay 8, 2012

After we reached the new world record of scientific ocean drilling depth on 25th April, an unexpected technical trouble occurred on 6th May. The drilling pipe was broken in the C0019C hole near the wellhead and we lost a part of the borehole assembly, including the LWD and MWD tools. This news came more or less as a big shock for all of us. It seems the operating plan we made after thorough consideration last week is also broken.

Fig. 1. The ocean surface seems peaceful, but the drilling operation under the extremely deep (~7000 m) water is full of risks. Photo by Tao Yang.

Even though disappointed, we need to calm down and take rapid response to this terrible setback. In the first 24 hours following the occurrence of the trouble, co-chiefs and EPM did very impressive works for the rearrangement of our operating plan. A detailed new schedule, including the risk assessment, was provided and discussed seriously by all science party members in the afternoon meeting on 7th May. Finally, we came to the consensus that even though this plan is risky, we are still going to carry it, considering both the chances of coring and deployment of MTL observatory are remained. We chose it also because even if we meet another technical trouble, the coring will still be on the table and we would still be able to get samples from the deep. This choice is a fortune for science, since we still remain the very precious opportunity to know the frictional temperature anomaly of the large amount slip of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

Fig. 2. The white board after the afternoon meeting on 7th May; this brief form, drawn by EPM Sean Toczko, saw our intense discussion about the contingency plan. A lot of things, which we hope are good, will happen in the next three weeks.

I gradually realize that it is the best time to test our group when we meet troubles and difficulties. It is the best time for us to display our strong resolution and recollected decision when we face setbacks. It is the best time for us to be cheered by our scientific willingness and remain positive and hopeful when the thing is not going smoothly. This time, I really feel the strong power supporting the entire group. I believe this power comes from all of us and will carry us to the success of the expedition.

Science is always on the way, and so are us. There might be failures on this way, but we will never give up trying to know the truth and we will never lose our science dream. Any steps on this way, no matter happiness or sadness, will be enjoyed by us. When we look back to this way in the future, we will appreciate all the efforts we made.

Best wishes for JFAST!

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