Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Ocean Drilling: Forty Years of International Collaboration



International cooperation is an essential component of modern scientific research and societal advancement [see Ismail-Zadeh and Beer, 2009], and scientific ocean drilling represents one of Earth science's longest-running and most successful international collaborations. The strength of this collaboration and its continued success result from the realization that scientific ocean drilling provides a unique and powerful tool to study the critical processes of both short-term change and the long-term evolution of Earth systems. A record of Earth's changing tectonics, climate, ocean circulation, and biota is preserved in marine sedimentary deposits and the underlying basement rocks. And because the ocean floor is the natural site for accumulation and preservation of geological materials, it may preserve a continuous record of these processes.

The challenge lies in accessing these records. It was recognized early on that no single country could support such a large effort on the decadal time scale needed. Thus, those planning drilling efforts quickly realized that international resources and commitment are necessary to mounting a significant investigation of the records preserved beneath the oceans on the global scale required. An international program also allows countries that make more limited financial contributions to utilize the full resources provided by the large program and make significant scientific contributions.