BGR Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe

Development of the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) to the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP)

IODP’s logo IODP’s logo Source: IODP

The ocean floor deposits contain information on the earth’s past. Once it is deciphered it allows an enhanced understanding of the naturally occurring geodynamic processes - a premise for the increasingly intensive use and claim of the earth by humans. Consequently, the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) was initiated. After the space program, it is the second largest and most successful international research project world-wide. In the autumn of 2003, the project ended and was carried on with the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP).

The Ocean Drilling Program was an international geoscientific joint project for the exploration of ocean floors by drillings. Thereby, scientists could acquire samples as well as physical and chemical data of the ocean floors, which provide information on the structure and the development of the earth’s crust as well as the sediments deposited on it. These sediments for the most part consist of weathered material from the continents and remains of shells and skeletons of the marine biota. Therefore, the paleoenvironment of the earth’s history can be reconstructed. The main object of the ODP was to achieve an all-round understanding of the earth’s development, which also could lead to an improved management of the earth and secure the supply of mineral and energy resources for mankind.

The ODP was financed by government organizations in the USA (the National Science Foundation, NSF, about 60 percent), Germany, United Kingdom, France and Japan as well as two consortiums formed by Australia, Canada and South Korea a well as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey (6.6 percent each) to promote sciences. The German participation was regulated by a “memorandum of understanding” between the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Science Foundation.

The costs for the ODP project amounted to about 44.6 million US Dollars per year. These funds were mainly used for the ODP vessel JOIDES Resolution and the recovery and storage of the samples and data from the drillings as well as for the publishing of results. The member countries also paid an immense amount of money for the preparation and the examination of the drillings.

The scientific control of the ODP was in the hands of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (JOIDES), an association of institutions that carry out geoscientific marine research. The German member of JOIDES is the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources. On authority of the US National Science Foundation the member states contributed to the funds, which were administered by the Joint Oceanographic Institutions Inc. in Washington D.C., USA. The work of the drilling vessel, developments for the improvement of drilling technologies, the management of drill core stockrooms and the publishing of results were directed by a subcontract with the Texas A&M University (TAMU). A further subcontract with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of the Columbia University in New York, USA, regulated the management of the drill log and the maintenance of a database containing the data that was needed for the preparation of drillings.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, that carries on the discontinued ODP, is changing direction to assure that the research is carried out on the highest scientific and technological level. The IODP is supposed to provide the means for the examination of inaccessible areas of the ocean floor, in order to further explore the earth’s system. Therefore, the IODP makes use of the advanced sampling and monitoring methods, which are of technically high standard, carried out on the new Japanese, US American and European drilling platforms. The innovative research projects of the IODP will investigate on the variability of the environment, the development of georisks and the georesources, for a better geomanagement of our planet.

The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources manages the IODP coordination of the scientific participation of German institutions.


Dr. Jochen Erbacher
Phone: +49-(0)511-643-2795
Fax: +49-(0)511-643-3663

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