Delaney, J.R., Spiess, F.N., Solomon, S.C., Hessler, R., Karsten, J.L., Baross, J.A., Holcomb, R.T., Norton, D., McDuff, R.E., Sayles, F. , Whitehead Jr, J.,  Abbott, D., and Olsen, L. 1987. Scientific rationale for establishing long-term ocean bottom observatory/laboratory systems. In Marine Minerals (pp. 389-411). Springer Netherlands.


The oceanographic community is in a position scientifically and technologically to initiate programs leading to the installation of one or more permanently instrumented observatory/laboratory complexes on submarine spreading centers. The dynamic nature of these systems is well established. Yet, there has been no long term, inter-disciplinary effort focused on specific sites to document rates of change in system components, nor the interactions linking the physical, chemical, and biological processes involved. The ultimate goal of this natural laboratory approach would be to establish, then model, the temporal, and the spatial, co-variation among the active processes involved in generation and aging of 60 percent of the planetary surface. The technological and intellectual stimulation involved in successful implementation of natural seafloor laboratories will provide a new generation of dynamically-based, quantitatively testable models of ocean lithosphere genesis and of the biological and chemical consequences of its formation.

The complex and interrelated magmatic, deformational, hydrothermal and biological processes operating at ridge crests span a broad range of time and space scales. Consequently, a wide variety of coordinated and synchronized measurements will be essential to permit integrated interpretation of important cause-and-effect relationships. A number of seafloor-, borehole-, and water column-mounted instrument arrays currently exist or may be readily adapted for use. Power requirements, data acquisition, and sensor development are among the components of system architecture which must be developed to provide maximum flexibility to individual investigators and optimal coordination with other participants. Ideally, intensive characterization efforts will be focused on the unit element of accretion, or the ridge segment scale (50–100 km), although a number of specific sub-systems may be studied in greater detail at smaller scales. In addition, integration of the time-series data into evolving numerical simulations of spreading center subsystems will be a powerful feedback component in the evolution of the field program.