Texas A&M University has been designated as Science Operator for a new National Science Foundation sponsored program of scientific ocean drilling - the Ocean Drilling Program. The responsibilities of the Science Operator include implementing the science plans under the guidance of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling, providing logistical and technical support for a shipboard science team, managing post-cruise activities, the long term duration and distribution of core samples, and coordinating, editing and publication of the final research product. The scientific programs will be carried out with the drilling vessel SEDCO/BP 471, a dynamically positioned drillship capable of deploying 30,000 ft. of drill string and operating with a riser in 6000 ft. of water.
The primary scientific objectives of the Ocean Drilling Program will being studying the origin and evolution of the oceanic crust, the tectonic evolution of continental margins, the origin and evolution of marine sedimentary sequences, studies of long term changes in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere, biosphere and magnetic field and development of new tools and technology for deep ocean exploration and drilling.
In 1964, four of the major marine geoscience institutions [Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University (L-DGO), Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California (SIO), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami (RSMAS)], signed a memorandum of agreement which inaugurated the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling [JOIDES] and led the way for the development of a unified program of deep ocean drilling.
Prior to this time, the only method of sampling the deep sea floor had been in the form of dredge hauls and piston cores, which provided samples from the upper 20 m of the ocean floor. These samples contributed greatly to our understanding of the geological history of the ocean floor, and suggested that even more information was within grasp with a drilling program which could penetrate thicker stratigraphic sections and the ocean crust. The initial effort of JOIDES, which was managed by L-DGO and sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was the drilling of several deep holes on the Blake Plateau off northern Florida. The drilling vessel was M/V CALDRILL I, a converted 54-meter, AKL-type vessel equipped for rotary drilling.1
The success of the inaugural JOIDES effort provided the impetus and framework for a more ambitious drilling program. Under the sponsorship of NSF, SIO was designated the operating institution for what became known as the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and a world-wide drilling program commenced in 1968. The operating vessel was D!V GLOMAR CHALLENGER which logged 375,000 n. miles, drilled 1092 holes at 624 sites, and recovered 96,000 meters of core until November, 1983, when the DSDP terminated its field operations. During this 15-year period, the Universities of Washington, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Texas, Texas A&M and Oregon State all became active members of JOIDES.