A UCD School of Earth Sciences-led international expedition, TOSCA (Tectonic Spreading and the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone) has just sailed out of Galway on the Research Vessel Celtic Explorer. TOSCA is funded by the National Development Plan Ship-time Programme and has stemmed from AORA (Atlantic Ocean research Alliance) acquired bathymetric data at the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone. Initial interpretations of the AORA data have revealed a spectacular landscape with 4000m high mountains rising from the seabed to 600m below the sea surface. The team is now bringing a fully-equipped research vessel to the region in order to understand the geological processes that have created the extraordinary landscape there.
Tectonic processes, related to the stretching of the Atlantic Ocean at this location, have created these mountains which the team believe might reveal rocks that are created much deeper in the continental crust and upper mantle (several kilometres below the seabed), making them now accessible for sampling. Additional mapping and sampling will help them understand better the processes that create them. Topographies as high and as steep as these mountains are often subject to catastrophic slope collapses, much like their subaerial counterparts. Underwater landslides on steep slopes have the potential to generate tsunamis that could traverse the Atlantic Ocean in any direction, towards western Europe, Canada, USA, Greenland, etc. These environments are also likely to host diverse and rich habitats, so far undiscovered and never seen by humans before. In order to understand these geological processes and characterise the habitats that like living there, the TOSCA team will collect more bathymetric data, seismic profiles, video footage, rock and biological samples and sediment cores.
Funding has come from the National Development Plan Ship-time Programme and from the German Science Foundation (DFG). The planning and organisation of the expedition has been coordinated by the Marine Institute in Galway.
To follow news of the survey that will run until the 8th of June use #expTOSCA on twitter, follow @aggiegeorg and/or @maria_MarineGeo.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/expTOSCA/
And the Marine Institutes blog http://scientistsatsea.blogspot.com/