Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 336 successfully initiated subseafloor observatory science at a young mid-ocean-ridge flank setting. All of the drilled sites are located in the North Pond region of the Atlantic Ocean (22°45′N, 46°05′W) in 4414–4483 m water depth. This area is known from previous ocean drilling and site survey investigations as a site of particularly vigorous circulation of seawater in permeable 8 Ma basaltic basement underlying a <300 m thick sedimentary pile. Understanding how this seawater circulation affects microbial and geochemical processes in the uppermost basement was the primary science objective of Expedition 336.
Basement was cored and wireline-logged in Holes U1382A and U1383C. Upper oceanic crust in Hole U1382A, which is only 50 m west of Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) Hole 395A, recovered 32 m of core between 110 and 210 meters below seafloor (mbsf). Core recovery in basement was 32%, yielding a number of volcanic flow units with distinct geochemical and petrographic characteristics. A unit of sedimentary breccia containing clasts of basalt, gabbroic rocks, and mantle peridotite was found intercalated between two volcanic flow units and was interpreted as a rock slide deposit. From Hole U1383C we recovered 50.3 m of core between 69.5 and 331.5 mbsf (19%). The basalts are aphyric to highly plagioclase-olivine-phyric tholeiites that fall on a liquid line of descent controlled by olivine fractionation. They are fresh to moderately altered, with clay minerals (saponite, nontronite, and celadonite), Fe oxyhydroxide, carbonate, and zeolite as secondary phases replacing glass and olivine to variable extents. In addition to traditional downhole logs, we also used a new logging tool for detecting in situ microbial life in ocean floor boreholes—the Deep Exploration Biosphere Investigative tool (DEBI-t).
Sediment thickness was ~90 m at Sites U1382 and U1384 and varied between 38 and 53 m at Site U1383. The sediments are predominantly nannofossil ooze with layers of coarse foraminiferal sand and occasional pebble-size clasts of basalt, serpentinite, gabbroic rocks, and bivalve debris. The bottommost meters of sections cored with the advanced piston corer feature brown clay. Extended core barrel coring at the sediment/basement interface recovered <1 m of brecciated basalt with micritic limestone. Sediments were intensely sampled for geochemical pore water analyses and microbiological work. In addition, high-resolution measurements of dissolved oxygen concentration were performed on the whole-round sediment cores.
Major strides in ridge-flank studies have been made with subseafloor borehole observatories (CORKs) because they facilitate combined hydrological, geochemical, and microbiological studies and controlled experimentation in the subseafloor. During Expedition 336, two fully functional observatories were installed in two newly drilled holes (U1382A and U1383C) and an instrument and sampling string were placed in an existing hole (395A). Although the CORK wellhead in Hole 395A broke off and Hole U1383B was abandoned after a bit failure, these holes and installations are intended for future observatory science targets. The CORK observatory in Hole U1382A has a packer seal in the bottom of the casing and monitors/samples a single zone in uppermost oceanic crust extending from 90 to 210 mbsf. Hole U1383C was equipped with a three-level CORK observatory that spans a zone of thin basalt flows with intercalated limestone (~70–146 mbsf), a zone of glassy, thin basaltic flows and hyaloclastites (146–200 mbsf), and a lowermost zone (~200–331.5 mbsf) of more massive pillow flows with occasional hyaloclastites in the upper part.