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Holes in the Bottom of the Sea: History, Revolutions, and Future Opportunities

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Suzanne OConnell

Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut 06459, USA,


No other international scientific collaboration has contributed as much to our knowledge of Earth processes as scientific ocean drilling (SOD). These contributions include geophysical surveys, core samples, borehole well logs, and sub-seafloor observatories. After more than half a century, involving thousands of scientists from around the world, SOD has been instrumental in developing three geoscience revolutions: (1) plate tectonics, (2) paleoceanography, and (3) the deep marine biosphere. Without SOD, it is unlikely that our current understanding of Earth processes could have developed. Building upon prior scientific results, the current science plan is guided by four interlinked themes: Planetary Dynamics, Climate and Ocean Change, Biosphere Frontiers, and Earth in Motion. SOD has also been a leader in international collaborations and the open sharing of samples, data, and information. Results from SOD expeditions are open access and available online. Almost 2.5 million samples have been taken from over 360 km of core located in three repositories. Today about half the members of scientific teams, including co-chief scientists, are women. This program is needed in the future for geoscientists to continue exploring our planet to understand how it functions and to create predictive models.

Manuscript received 12 July 2018. Revised manuscript received 26 Nov. 2018. Manuscript accepted 8 Dec. 2018. Posted 24 Jan. 2019.

© The Geological Society of America, 2019. CC-BY-NC.