The Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) is a major component of the National Science Foundation's continuing commitment to the study of the geologic processes that have shaped our planet and modified its environment. The scientific problems being addressed range from the geologic history and structure of continental margins to the processes responsible for the formation and alteration of the ocean's crust. In a time of enhanced public and scientific interest in problems of global change, ODP provides critical data on changes in ocean circulation, chemistry, and biologic productivity and their relation to changes in atmospheric circulation and glacial conditions. The Ocean Drilling Program has a unique role in addressing these problems, since it is the only facility for continuously sampling the geologic record of the ocean basins, which cover 70% of our planet.
The ODP is the successor to the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), which was a global reconnaissance of the ocean basins. DSDP began operations in 1968 at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, using a 400-foot drillship, the Glomar Challenger. DSDP was supported initially by only the National Science Foundation, with extensive involvement of international scientists who were invited to participate on drilling cruises. As this international interest continued to grow in the early 1970's, formal participation in the project was offered to the international geoscience community. In 1975, five nations (France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) accepted this commitment to joint planning and conduct of the project, as well as to financial support for operations. This International Phase of Ocean Drilling (IPOD) continued to 1983. Although the Challenger had reached the limits of her capabilities, the remarkable scientific success of the DSDP and the new questions it had generated demanded a continuing capability for drilling in the oceans.
The Ocean Drilling Program was organized, international participation was coordinated, a new drillship (the JOIDES Resolution) was contracted and outfitted, and her first cruise sailed in early 1985, within 18 months of the retirement of the Challenger. This is a remarkable accomplishment that reflects the efforts and excellence of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc. (prime contractor for ODP), Texas A&M University (science and ship operator), Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory (logging operator), and the international science community in organizing and planning the new program. It was argued in planning for the ODP that a larger drillship was required to provide space for the increasing U.S. and international demand for shipboard participation, improved and expanded laboratory capabilities, and improvements in coring and logging systems. A larger and better equipped vessel would also provide better stability and working conditions in high-latitude regions of the oceans. The success of the JOIDES Resolution has proven the wisdom of these early arguments.
ODP now has operated in all oceans except the ice-covered Arctic. We have drilled above the Arctic circle and within sight of the Antarctic continent. Over 1000 scientists from 25 nations have participated in the initial ODP cruises. The larger scientific parties have allowed an increased emphasis on student participation and training aboard ship. The state-of-the-art laboratories support rapid and complete initial analyses of samples that provide both scientific results and guide subsequent shore-based studies. Nearly 1000 additional scientists have used these data and requested samples from the program's core and data archives for continuing study. The geochemical and geophysical logging capability is unsurpassed in either academia or industry and has provided remarkable new data with which to study the Earth. New experiments to measure and monitor geologic processes have been deployed in ODP boreholes.
The international commitment to ocean drilling has increased in the ODP. In addition to our five partners in IPOD—France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom—two consortia have joined ODP: Canada-Australia and the European Science Foundation (representing Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey). The 20 countries of the ODP represent the community of nations that have a global interest in the geosciences and oceanography. This global scientific participation has assured the program's scientific excellence by focusing and integrating the combined scientific knowledge and capabilities of the program's 20 nations. It has allowed problems of a global nature to be addressed by providing databases and background studies which are openly shared for planning and interpreting drilling results. It has eased problems of access to territorial waters, allowing comparative studies to be done among oceans. Finally, the international sharing of program costs has allowed this important and large program to proceed without detrimental impact to the research budgets of any one nation.
The Ocean Drilling Program, like its predecessor, DSDP, serves as a model for planning, conducting, and financing research to address problems of global importance. The National Science Foundation is proud to have a leading role in this unique international program, and we look forward to its continuing success.
National Science Foundation