Sea floor: scientific ocean drilling

BGS Research

marine drilling rig

BGS provides operations and science management for major scientific ocean-drilling projects. Since 2003, we have implemented several high-profile expeditions for the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), under the auspices of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). We work closely with our partners within the ECORD Science Operator (ESO), a consortium comprising:

  • BGS
  • University of Bremen: Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM)
  • University of Leicester: geophysics and borehole research group
  • University of Montpellier: transfers in porous media team

As part of the ESO partnership, we support the global geoscientific community in their efforts to address the challenges outlined in the IODP Science Plan:

  • climate and ocean change
  • biosphere frontiers
  • Earth connections
  • Earth in motion

We coordinate the ESO partnership. We design, build and manage offshore scientific drilling operations and provide coring expertise and operational oversight. Additionally, we provide procurement services, coordinate permitting and expedition scoping efforts, manage the science party and science outputs, and manage expedition outreach activities. Our consortium partners provide expertise, facilities and services for the curation, databasing, archiving and analysis of collected cores and samples, the acquisition of IODP standard measurements, and downhole logging services.

With our partners, we have implemented a series of eight ‘mission-specific platform’ IODP expeditions using a diverse range of vessels, including geotechnical vessels and self-raising lift boats with temporary drill rigs, multipurpose drilling vessels, and research ships equipped with robotic sea-floor drill rigs provided by BGS and MARUM.

We have carried out scientific drilling from the ice fields of the central Arctic Ocean to the barrier reefs of the South Pacific, drilling in water depths of less than 20 m to over 1.5 km. We have recovered over 6.6 km of core material from diverse lithologies including fossil corals that reveal the paleoceanographic evolution of the tropics; highly deformed, biosphere-hosting altered ultramafics from the central Atlantic Ocean, and a near-continuous lithological record from the Chicxulub impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico.

The cores and data that we gather are analysed by the expedition science parties, and later by the wider IODP community, to meet a wide range of scientific objectives.

The IODP expeditions implemented by BGS and partners within ESO are:

  • Expedition 302: Arctic coring expedition, 2004
  • Expedition 310: Tahiti sea level, 2005–2006
  • Expedition 313: New Jersey shallow shelf, 2009
  • Expedition 325: Great Barrier Reef environmental changes, 2010
  • Expedition 347: Baltic Sea paleoenvironment, 2013–2014
  • Expedition 357: Atlantis Massif, 2015–2016
  • Expedition 364: Chicxulub impact crater, 2016
  • Expedition 381: Corinth active rift development, 2017–2018
Relative topics


1. Arno Keinonen

IODP Expedition 302: Arctic coring expedition, 2004. © Arno Keinonen, ECORD/IODP.

2. IODP Expedition 310

The DP Hunter cored the shallow reefs around Tahiti to gather new data on the paleoceanographic evolution of the tropics as recorded in coral reefs located in tectonically inactive areas. The BGS conducted a sister expedition in 2010 on the Great Barrier Reef (IODP Expedition 325). © ECORD/IODP.

3. IODP Expedition 357

This was the first IODP expedition to deploy sea-floor drill technology. Two drills were deployed at various times during the expedition, the BGS RD2 and the MARUM MeBo70. © David Smith, ECORD/IODP.

4. IODP Expedition 381

The cores were readied to be processed, analysed and sampled in the nearby laboratories by the international science party. © ECORD/IODP.

5. IODP Expedition 364

The cores are made of granite, which has been severely damaged by the shock wave generated by an asteroid impact 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period (now linked to the demise of the dinosaurs). The impact moved these rocks 20–30 km in about 10 minutes before emplacement in their current location. Image from IODP Expedition 364 Scientists (2017): Core overview images of IODP Hole 364-M0077A. In: Morgan, J., Gulick, S., Mellett, C.L., Green, S.L., and the Expedition 364 Scientists, 2017. Chicxulub: Drilling the K-Pg Impact Crater. Proceedings of the International Ocean Discovery Program, 364: College Station, TX (International Ocean Discovery Program).


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