Mapping the Galicia Rift off Spain

We are collecting seismic data in the northeast Atlantic Ocean west of Spain to image faults under the seafloor that were involved in continental rifting and breakup and the initial opening of the Atlantic Ocean ~125 million years ago. This rift is notable because very little volcanism appears to have accompanied rifting, as observed in many other rifts worldwide. Instead, continental breakup here appears to have been sufficiently slow and cold that the rocks from the Earth’s mantle were exposed at the seafloor after the crust broke. Previous seismic imaging studies have revealed a continuous sub-horizontal structure that lies at the base of a series of fault blocks beneath the seafloor (called the “S reflector”), and there is significant controversy here and for similar features elsewhere on the role of this feature in accommodating extension and exposing mantle at the seafloor. This program involves collecting and analyzing a suite of geophysical data to image this structure, the overlying fault blocks, the exposed mantle and the sediments in 3D to reconstruct the evolution of the rift. We will collect 3D seismic reflection data to image faults and sediments during a 45-day cruise aboard the R/V Marcus G. Langseth, and three cruises on the F.S. Poseidon to deploy and recover ocean bottom seismometers that will be used to determine the velocity that sound travels through different layers of the earth, which yields information on their compositions.

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The Langseth cruise is winding down!

Posted By: noreply@blogger.com (Vigo Spain) on August 01, 2013

The Langseth Galicia 3D seismic cruise is winding down. By tomorrow we will be back at the dock in Vigo. Like most seagoing science, we will miss the ship experience, we will miss the new colleagues we have met, we will look forward to getting back on shore, and for many of us the awesome multi-year task of processing, interpreting, and publishing the boatload of data we have acquired.

This is an example of the data we have collected. Right is to the East and left is to the West. This is a cross section of the Earth about 65 km long. The blue is water. The water depth here is about 5 km. The red and gray colors are a cross section of the rocks below the water. The flat layers are sedimentary rocks. The lumpy bumps (that is a technical term!) consist of blocks of continental crust and of the mantle.

We thank the Langseth’s Captain and crew for making this possible! These are men and women who live on the sea, and who share their ocean world with us for a month or two. Every now and then, when you can walk 100 meters in a straight line, ask yourself, “Where is the Langseth now, and who is steering the ship, or keeping the engines running, or keeping the deck ship-shape, or providing good food, or every other important task on the ship?” Under your breath say thank you for the experience you had on Langseth.

We thank Robert and his technical team. They worked tirelessly to assemble the 24 km of hydrophone streamer that hears the reflections from the Earth, the 40 or so airguns that make the booms, and all the rigging it takes to tow them spread out behind the ship over 600 meters wide and 7000 meters long. That was just the start. Then they operated the electronic equipment that received the seismic data and recorded it for the scientists. Without them we could not do the science we love.

Thank you to the Science Party. We had a total of 20 scientists, including undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, researchers, and professors. On Leg 1 we had 14 scientists and on Leg 2 we had 10 scientists. Four scientists weathered both legs. Six joined us for Leg 2. I am very grateful for all your efforts on behalf of the Galicia 3D science. I hope that you learned a lot, had a good time, and met other scientists for the first time. I suspect that we will meet one another many times in the future.I look forward to that!


This is the Technical team and the Science team for Langseth Leg 2.

I want to thank the Protected Species Observers for sailing with us. They spent countless hours in the observing tower, high above any other part of the ship. They have sighted hundreds of whales, but most did not come close to the ship. It is windy and cold up there, but their role is important for making sure that collecting our scientific data does not interfere with the creatures who call the ocean home.

Thank you for sending your loved ones off on the Langseth. I can certify that they now know how to do their own laundry and to clean up their cabin before they leave the ship. During the weekly emergency drill, they run quickly up to the muster station on deck and put on safety gear. I recommend that you continue to enforce these behaviors ruthlessly! They will forget them if you let them slack-off. On the other hand, they did not have to cook their own food, or wash and dry their dishes. You will still have to work on these behaviors!

As I write this from the Langseth, we should remember that the Galicia 3D experiment goes on. Our colleagues from GEOMAR and University of Southampton will be on the FS Poseidon from 25 August to 10 September. They will be recovering the 78 Ocean Bottom Seismometers that are still on the bottom (on purpose!). They have been recording approximately 150,000 airgun array shots fired by the Langseth. I know what you are thinking. “How many total recordings of shots are recorded in all the OBS’s?” That would be about 11.7 million shot recordings. This will keep the OBS scientists busy for a while!

I particularly want to thank James Gibson for creating this blog. It has reached out to our friends and to strangers. We plan to keep the blog alive. This project will continue for years.


Best regards,
Dale Sawyer
Rice University

Behind the scenes of the ship

Posted By: noreply@blogger.com (Vigo Spain) on July 31, 2013

This week we have been exploring all the parts of the ship we have not yet discovered and were lucky enough to get shown around the engine room and the bridge. It is evident that each area of a ship (bridge, engines, science etc.) has a group of people doing those specific jobs and that the combination of everyone doing their part keeps everything running smoothly; like cogs in a massive machine. 

The engine room control panel. With that many buttons no wonder it takes so much training to work in the engine room!
The engine room is located in the hull of the ship and is the biggest room on board by far, taking up about 2/3rds of the bottom deck. This is obviously a very important part of the ship because without it we would not be moving anywhere! The Langseth has 2 engines leading to 2 propellers and also 1 bow-thruster. There are so many different bits of machinery down there that it can take 4 years of studying to be qualified to work in the engine room. It is very loud and warm but surprisingly clean and tidy. There are also 2 compressors which are used to pressurise the air for the air guns that we tow. 

One of the very noisy compressors. It is hard to portray the size of these in a photo, they are huge!
The heat from the engines is used to produce all the hot water for the ship and the engine room also has machines for desalinising our water. Fuel usage is constantly monitored and fuel moved between all the many tanks spread around the ship to ensure even weight distribution. Even though we only travel at about 4 knots whilst acquiring data we burn between 5000-6000 Gallons of fuel a day due to the massive load of the equipment we are towing behind us.

One of the two engines
The bridge sits at the front of the ship on top of the main living quarters. From here it seems as if practically everything can be controlled. They drive the ship when we are not driving from the main science lab during acquisition, control the speed, can manage the safety aspects including all alarms and watertight doors and keep a look out for anything floating past that might get caught up in our seismic gear (so far buoys and pallets have been sighted). One very important job of the bridge is to communicate with other nearby vessels. Nobody would expect us to be towing 6km of streamers so we have to make sure we let other ships know with enough time to arrange safe passing, therefore avoiding collisions.

This is the main control panel in the bridge. There are screens for  navigation and
radar as well as all the speed controls. There are two smaller control panels
on the port and starboard sides of the bridge for work that
involves careful maneuvering e.g. picking up OBS's. 
The last seismic line is just being finished right now and then we can get ready to begin equipment recovery. It is about 40 hours until we are back on dry land again! 

Tessa Gregory
University of Southampton  

Binning is the name of the game

Posted By: noreply@blogger.com (Vigo Spain) on July 31, 2013
As we come to the end of our cruise I thought that now would be a good time to talk about the way in which both seismic and multi-beam sonar data are quantified (basically nerd out). In both cases we "bin" the data into grid cells, which are predefined based on the resolution that we expect to achieve given the ideal data density of individual cells within the grid. 

A screen capture from the multi-beam sonar Seafloor Information System (SIS).
The image on the left shows swath coverage. The image on the right shows an active ping through the water column.
Multi-beam sonar (swath seafloor mapping) data are collected, gridded (binned) to the predefined cell size, and output in two flavors. Bathymetric grids, which are essentially 3D topographic maps, and Backscatter grids, which display the reflectivity of the seafloor. The reflectivity varies due to both incidence angle of the respective beams and the density of the surface (e.g. hard rock, sediment etc). As the ship moves along at a given velocity, the multi-beam sonar sends a "ping" from the transducers (transmitters) to the seafloor and then waits until the receipt of the last return to ping again. The ping rate (Hz or 1/seconds) is a function of the depth of the ocean as well as the sound speed through water (XBT's are useful!). The swath width also scales as a function of depth. Our average depth is ~4800m (2.98 miles), which allows for an achievable swath width of ~20km (12.43 miles!).

Swath coverage display of the backscatter (reflectivity of the seafloor) collected across a swath.
In order to gain insight on the density of the multi-channel seismic (MCS) data that we are collecting we use the Spectra software package. Spectra tracks the position of the ship, streamers, and air guns in real time using GPS and an acoustic network, and then bins the data accordingly within the predefined grid. The goal is to get an equal amount of seismic traces (reflected seismic waves) in each bin. The traces can then be stacked (combined), which increases the signal to noise ratio. Stacked traces within a bin are called "fold" and ideally represent traces from all offsets along the streamer in respect to the source.

A screen capture of the Spectra display. The image on the left shows active binning of the MCS data.
The image on the right shows the bins being infilled (filling holes).
We are getting to the end of the "No Mores," which means we are finished on Friday!! Stay tuned for a word from our Chief Scientist along with a look at the MCS data (and our cruise pic). 

James Gibson
Lamont-Doherty

Nom, Nom, Nom: Meals aboard the R/V Langseth

Posted By: noreply@blogger.com (Vigo Spain) on July 29, 2013

After all these posts about how we live and work onboard the R/V Langseth you may just be wondering what sort of sustenance keeps us going during the long hours.  Well you’re in luck! The excellent cooks serve meals with a smile promptly three times a day at 7:20 am, 11:30 am, and 5:30 pm.  Breakfasts always include mountains of eggs, bacon, sausages, and pancakes and on special occasions scrumptious muffins.  Lunch usually comes with toasty grilled sandwiches, soup that warms your limbs, and crunchy French fries.  Dinner varies but commonly consists of a juicy steak or pork chop, rice, mashed potatoes that put even your Mom’s Thanksgiving potatoes to shame, and a delicious desert like cherry pie.  The salad bar is open 24 hours a day and even this far into the cruise still contains crisp spinach, olives, tomatoes, and a variety of other vegetables.
A sampling of the meals served onboard with cooked by the always smiling galley staff.
From left to right breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In the center image the galley staff made up of June, Hervin, and Brian pose behind a lunch of pizza and soda.
We are now in the home stretch of our cruise, steaming furiously down our final sail lines to complete our 3D grid.  Can’t believe there’s only four more dinners until we set foot back on dry land!

Natalie Accardo
Lamont-Doherty