The last phase of the Ocean Drilling Program, the world's longest running, largest and most successful marine-earth science international programme, ended on September 30th 2003. The UK played a leading role throughout. Its replacement is the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), which began scientific operations in 2004.
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program is a scientific research initiative that began work in 2004. IODP builds upon the legacies of the early ocean drilling voyages, the Deep Sea Drilling Project, DSDP (1968-1983) and the Ocean Drilling Program, ODP (1983-2003). However, what is on offer is a fundamentally new and exciting research programme tailored to answer outstanding earth and ocean science questions. IODP will enable fundamental investigation of Earth's processes, including geographical area that were previously inaccessible or poorly understood.
Three major partners fund the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program: the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD), Japan and the United States. The Ocean Drilling Program operated with just one vessel, the JOIDES Resolution. IODP is a multi-platform programme based on two ships and mission-specific platforms. The Japanese will contribute a state-of-the-art riser vessel being supplied as part of the OD 21 Programme. A non-riser ship is provided by the United States. ECORD will contribute mission-specific platforms (e.g. shallow water drilling, ice covered regions).
With the new technology provided by the two ships, enhanced shore-based facilities and planned additional platforms, IODP provides new and extensive opportunities for oceanographic and deep earth discovery. With multiple platforms scientists are able to research more sites globally with advanced capabilities and therefore start to address questions that require carefully-planned, multidisciplinary, integrated research programmes. The IODP riser drill ship will provide a way to drill deep into continental margins (where potential oil and gas deposits inhibited previous academic drilling) and into regions with thick sediment sections, fault zones, unstable formations or chert layers.
The IODP is science driven, as outlined in the Initial Science Plan. There are 3 major themes:
For more information on the Initial IODP Science Plan click here.