Ocean drilling scientific research contemplates a multiplatform strategy to challenge the big issues
Drilling into the ocean seabed to better understand the Earth's history, structure and processes continues to hold a powerful fascination for the science community, which shows no sign of diminishing as the 21st Century beckons. Andrew McBarnet reports on where scientific interest and activity is heading. We have now reached a point where scientific ocean drilling can directly address the fundamental questions of direct relevance to humankind such as resources, natural hazards and global change. That is the inspirational message to be found in a recently released draft report on COMPLEX, a conference on multiple platform exploration of the ocean, held in Vancouver, Canada earlier this summer. The meeting in some ways epitomized the open and inquiring spirit with which the science community has approached ocean drilling over the past 30†years, in stark contrast to the oil industry which up to now been unco-operative about sharing its immense experience in surveying and drilling in a marine environment. The COMPLEX gathering was essentially an invitation for scientists worldwide to make a compelling case for specific future international drilling projects and as such attracted some 350 specialists with a broad agenda. It was the latest stage in a major process of reappraisal and transition for the international Ocean Drilling Program, which along with the previous Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and the International Phase of Ocean Drilling (IPOD), span over a quarter of a century of scientific endeavour, arguably representing an era of international co-operation and scientific discovery without precedent or parallel in the earth sciences.