Apr. 30, 2001 COLLEGE STATION, April 25 - East meets West to celebrate a new millennium of scientific cooperation May 3 when the science drill ship JOIDES Resolution sails into Keelung Harbor for its first visit to Taiwan (Chinese Taipei).
"By May 3, the JOIDES Resolution (JR) will have been at sea for 55 days, drilling in the western Pacific off Guam, Japan and Taiwan," said Jack Baldauf, ODP deputy director. "We will put into Keelung Harbor to allow a fresh crew and a new scientific team to board, then we'll embark on another research leg, drilling offshore Japan."
The JR, the world's largest scientific drill ship, is operated by the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) at Texas A&M University on behalf of more than 20 countries involved in exploring the world's oceans and understanding ocean resources and environments. The ship will arrive in Keelung Harbor on May 3 and will remain there five days, marked by celebrations involving the mayors of Keelung and of Taipei and other senior government officials.
In addition to the welcoming ceremonies, other activities planned for the port call include a meeting of the members of the PAC-RIM consortium (Chinese Taipei, Australia, Korea and Canada); a regional ocean drilling symposium between delegates from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and Taiwan's National Science Council; and an open house allowing students, scientists and dignitaries to tour the JR.
"This visit marks a great opportunity to strengthen existing relationships between Taiwanese universities and Texas A&M," said David Prior, dean of the College of Geosciences. "The JR port call gives us a chance to showcase Texas A&M's science support for international research conducted on the JR."
Texas A&M's activities will be facilitated by the Taiwan National Science Council, assisted by several former students who hold leading positions in government, industry and education in Taiwan.
During the 55 days prior to reaching Taiwan, the JR complement of international scientists will have been busy setting up instruments for undersea seismic laboratories. Their first task involved coring and setting up a long-term observatory at the summit of the South Chamorro Seamount, near the Mariana Trench. The second segment of this research leg established a seismic observatory in waters beneath the Philippine Sea.
"This seismic observatory forms part of the International Ocean Network," said Baldauf. "It fills a large gap in the global station grid and will help increase the resolution of global tomographic studies. In addition, the observatory will allow us to more precisely study the seismic structure of the crust and upper mantle of the Philippine plate, as well as get better resolution of earthquake locations and mechanisms in the northwest Pacific."
The rocks recovered in the cores may also shed light on Earth's earliest life forms by examining the unique biosphere found at great depths. The drilling at Chamorro Seamount will re-examine the hypothesis that microbes are capable of using alternative energy sources found at that level.
After refueling at Keelung, the JR will launch the next two-month program of drilling, logging and installing more long-term undersea observatories in the Nankai Trough off Japan. The ship will drill bore holes in the ocean floor, pack them with special instruments called ACORKs and reseal the holes to prevent seawater from seeping in.
The ACORKs - advanced circulation obviation retrofit kits - will allow long-term observations of subseafloor seismiscity, fluid-flow parameters and fluid geochemistry of the area. Later, both manned and unmanned submersibles will revisit the bore holes for a closer look at the ocean floor characteristics there.
Texas A&M will be represented in Taiwan by Richard Ewing, vice president for research; Emily Ashworth, assistant provost for international studies; David Prior, dean of the College of Geosciences; David Brooks, executive associate dean and associate dean for research of the College of Geosciences; Glen Williams, associate dean of the Dwight Look College of Engineering; and Julie Barker, executive assistant to the vice president for research. Tina Yang of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Houston is assisting with arrangements for the visit.
In addition, faculty members Bruce Herbert, Richard Gibson and Andrew Klein from the College of Geosciences will join the group to help implement collaborative research projects with the National University of Taiwan and the National Ocean University of Taiwan.
"Stronger research and educational links with our colleagues and friends in Taiwan will help us to provide greater access to international education experience for our students," Prior said.
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