Scientific ocean drilling represents one of Earth sciences' longest running and most successful international collaborations.

Advances in piston coring in the 1940s allowed research ships to routinely recover long sediment sections from the seafloor. These ocean bottom sediments, accumulating slowly over geologic time, contain microscopic fossils whose chemistry is a proxy for ancient ocean conditions. Piston coring was used on expeditions such as the worldwide crusie of the Swedish research vessel Albatross to begin studying the rich and varied planetary history captured at the bottom of the world's oceans. 

In 1961 when dynamic positioning was successfully used to keep the drilling platform CUSS on target in strong current, scientific drilling took root as a feasible technology to study Earth's subseafloor geology. Project Mohole, a concept developed by the American Miscellaneous Society with funding from the National Science Foundation, considered the feasibility of drilling through the Mohorovičić seismic discontinuity that represents the demarcation between the thin oceanic crust and Earth's mantle, the thickest interior layer of our planet.

The next phrase of scientific ocean drilling, the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP), began in 1966 using the Drilling Vessel Glomar Challenger. This pioneer vessel for DSDP conducted drilling and coring operations in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The Glomar Challenger also advanced the technology of deep-ocean drilling.

In 1985, JOIDES Resolution replaced the Glomar Challenger at the start of a new program, the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP). ODP was truly an international cooperative effort to explore and study the composition and structure of the Earth's subseafloors. The JOIDES Resolution conducted 110 expeditions for ODP at 2000 drill holes located throughout the world's ocean basins.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP 2003-2013built upon the international partnerships and scientific success of the DSDP and ODP by employing multiple drilling platforms financed by the contributions from 26 participating nations. These platforms - a refurbished JOIDES Resolution, the new marine-riser equipped Japanese Deep Sea Drilling Vessl Chikyu, and specialized Mission-Specific-Platforms - were used to reach new areas of the global subsurface during 52 expeditions.

Beginning in October 2013, the IODP partners continue their collaboration via the International Ocean Discovery Program: Exploring the Earth Under the Sea.



Legacy Programs

Detailed information on each program, scientific details, engineering operations, samples, data and publications and outreach materials is located on the following website :



IODP Timeline


IODP Photo Gallery

With gas masks in lab Exp.331
With gas masks in lab Exp.331
Crews and Drill Bit (JFAST)
Crews and Drill Bit (JFAST)
Ocean Hall  (Smithsonian Museum 2)
Ocean Hall (Smithsonian Museum 2)