National Academies Press: OpenBook

Options for Scientific Ocean Drilling (1982)

Chapter: Conclusions and Recommendations

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Suggested Citation:"Conclusions and Recommendations." National Research Council. 1982. Options for Scientific Ocean Drilling. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18523.
Page 14
Suggested Citation:"Conclusions and Recommendations." National Research Council. 1982. Options for Scientific Ocean Drilling. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18523.
Page 15

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14 DSDP/IPOD has been a unique program in international cooperation and a uniquely successful experiment in international relations. Explorer, with its greater capacity, offers the opportunity for increasing the number of cooperating countries. The value of continuing this effort should not be overlooked or underestimated. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The conclusions of the NAS/NRC Committee on Ocean Drilling are summarized as follows: 1. The contributions of deep-sea drilling to the earth sciences have been of immeasurable importance; the project has "paid" for itself many times over. The new knowledge has been important not only in basic science but also in focusing the plate tectonics model on the location and formation of resources. However, even after 13 years of deep-sea drilling, the ocean basins remain a large piece of the earth's crust about which comparatively little is known. Yet they are an area which, if the plate tectonics model holds true, provides an extraordinary chance to help understand the whole earth. The oceanic crust is the site of fundamental earth processes that control or affect mountain building, earthquakes, ocean chemistry, ocean circulation and climate, and the placement of ore deposits. Another decade of ocean drilling holds promise of new contributions as important as the discoveries of the past ten years. 2. The current plans outline an attack on important geological questions involving global composition and structure and the processes that produce them. The plans are a logical follow-on to the current Deep Sea Drilling Project.

15 3. The new program should include approval for a long-range commitment. DSDP/IPOD operations have been severely hampered because of uncertain life expectancy. Extensions have been for short periods of time, with the threat or prospect of termination persisting almost up to each renewal deadline. This has not allowed time for orderly site surveys or even for good cruise planning. Longer-range planning will be essential for the new program. 4. Of the various operational options, we prefer Explorer, starting in a riserless mode with a view to adding the riser system after a few years of operation. Not only would this stretch out the capital costs of conversion, but it would probably provide the most cost-effective scientific program. 5. Either the Explorer or the Challenger will be an important national tool for testing scientific hypotheses and as such will be equivalent in significance to an accelerator, an astronomical observatory, or an NCAR. Such facilities should be supported separately and should not compete directly with NSF's ongoing support programs for individual team research in the standard disciplinary fields. 6. In summary, the Committee on Ocean Drilling recommends strongly the proposed continuation of NSF's ocean drilling program. It is a high quality, long-term basic research program with an international flavor that can be achieved no other way; and its output will be important not only to geology but to related fields. The Committee also recommends acquisition of the Glomar Explorer. This floating scientific facility will have significantly greater capabilities and a much longer productive life expectancy than the venerable Glomar Challenger. The incremental costs of Explorer seem modest when weighed against the scientific benefits it promises to yield.

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