Cape Roberts Project
Project DescriptionThe Cape Roberts Project: This joint venture brings together the
national antarctic programs and scientists from Australia, Germany,
Italy, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of
America. The aim is to recover and analyze cores from the sedimentary
strata beneath the sea floor off Cape Roberts, in the southwest corner
of the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Geologically the strata to be drilled are
located just within a major rift ^? the West Antarctic Rift System ^?
and have also been close to the South Pole for the last 130 million
years. They are over 1,500 meters (m) thick, and were laid down
between 30 and more than 100 million years ago.
Normally, strata from that long ago (Mid-Cretaceous to Paleogene) are
deeply buried, but strata from the sea floor off Cape Roberts record
old glacial and rifting events at or near the surface. Operations are
designed to recover a complete core representing the target 1,500 m of
strata; drilling for cores at three separate locations will accomplish
this, with the depth of individual excavations up to 700 m below the
sea floor. Curators cut the aggregate core into 1 m lengths, describe
them in geological detail, and then photograph them. Samples are then
distributed to researchers for a wide range of analyses ^? from
extracting specific target fossils to determining more precise age and
composition data for the sample.
The cores should help scientists answer two important questions:
Before the glaciations of the last 36 million years, were there ice
sheets on Antarctica that may have caused fluctuations in world-wide
How and when did the rifting of the Antarctic continent contribute to
the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Ross Sea?
Developing scientific models to answer these questions should provide
more general insight into the etiology of changes in global sea level,
as well as the origins of mountains and basins.
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