The initial campaign for drilling and coring deep-sea sediments by use of the ship Glomar Challenger has reached its half-way point and has been a brilliant success. The scientific planning of the project was the work of a consortium of oceanographic institutions known as JOIDES. Through a system of committees and panels, JOIDES solicited input and participation from representatives of all segments of the community of earth scientists. The project was made part of the national program for sampling deep-sea sediments by the National Science Foundation, and was implemented by a contract between that agency and the University of California.
Through a subcontract, Global Marine Inc. has constructed the drilling vessel and is operating her for an initial campaign of eighteen months -- half in the Atlantic and half in the Pacific according to the program established by JOIDES.
The shipboard work has been organized in eight "legs" of two months each. The scientific part of the work on each leg and the preliminary report on the samples obtained is the responsibility of a scientific staff chosen for that leg on the basis of special qualifications and of particular interest in the area to be visited. I shall attempt to review the background, objectives, and accomplishments of this activity, on the basis of a long association with it.
As Distinguished Lecturer for AAPG and SEG in 1947 and 1953, I had addressed the local chapters in many parts of the country, about the sediment cover of the deep-sea floor. I stated that geophysical measurements showed that the total sediment accumulation was thin, and urged the importance of sampling it by drilling. The only tangible response to this was an article by Earl Ubell in the New York Herald Tribune. I estimated that the work could be done from our small research vessel Vema, held in position by her normal propulsion and steering machinery, manually controlled by use of information from an acoustic link to a transducer on bottom. By considering a much slimmer hole than those now being drilled, we thought the operation could be undertaken on a vessel of about 1000 tons, and estimated a cost of about $1 million for the first hole, and about $200,000 each for subsequent ones.
Our proposal was based on newly obtained evidence that a moderate penetration would reach the oldest sediments present on the deepsea floor, and on experience in ship-handling which indicated that the proposed drilling was feasible.
The amount of geophysical information about sediment thickness was at that time rather scant. It consisted of about twenty seismic refraction profiles and a few seismic reflection traverses along which measurements that were spaced ten to thirty or forty miles apart indicated depths to reflecting horizons, the deepest of which was judged to be basement from the refraction results.
In addition, there were a few grand averages for sediment thickness over oceanic routes hundreds to thousands of miles long that had been obtained from study of the dispersion of earthquake surface waves.