Now Sailing: South Atlantic Transect (Expedition 390)

Abstract from the Scientific Prospectus: The South Atlantic Transect (SAT) is a multidisciplinary scientific ocean drilling project that comprises two International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) expeditions (390 and 393). These expeditions will recover complete sedimentary sections and the upper ~250 m of the underlying oceanic crust along a slow/intermediate spreading rate Mid-Atlantic Ridge crustal flow line at ~31°S. The sediments along this transect were originally spot cored more than 50 y ago during Deep Sea Drilling Project Leg 3 to help verify the theories of seafloor spreading and plate tectonics. Given dramatic advances in drilling technology and analytical capabilities since Leg 3, many high-priority scientific objectives can be addressed by revisiting the transect. The SAT expeditions will target six primary sites on 7, 15, 31, 49, and 61 Ma ocean crust, which will fill critical gaps in our sampling of intact in situ ocean crust with regards to crustal age, spreading rate, and sediment thickness. These sections are required to investigate the history of the low-temperature hydrothermal interactions between the aging ocean crust and the evolving South Atlantic Ocean and quantify past hydrothermal contributions to global geochemical cycles. The transect traverses the previously unexplored sediment- and basalt-hosted deep biosphere beneath the South Atlantic Gyre from which samples are essential to refine global biomass estimates and investigate microbial ecosystems’ responses to variable conditions in a low-energy gyre and aging ocean crust. The drilling operations will include installation of reentry cones and casing to establish legacy boreholes for future basement hydrothermal and microbiological experiments. The transect is also located near World Ocean Circulation Experiment Line A10, providing access to records of carbonate chemistry and deepwater mass properties across the western South Atlantic through key Cenozoic intervals of elevated atmospheric CO2 and rapid climate change. Reconstruction of the history of the deep western boundary current and deepwater formation in the Atlantic basins will yield crucial data to test hypotheses regarding the role of evolving thermohaline circulation patterns in climate change and the effects of tectonic gateways and climate on ocean acidification.