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The ocean drilling program is an international cooperative effort between scientists to study the ocean floor, investigating such topics as ocean crust formation, climate change, and the evolution and history of earth. The program obtains samples of the ocean floor and provides for on-shore facilities that study the cores. "ODP studies lead to a better understanding of the structure and composition of the Earth's crust, the processes of plate techtonics, the environmental conditions in ancient oceans, and climatic changes through time." (2)

Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of California), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (Columbia University), Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (University of Miami), and the Woods Hold Oceanographic Institution formed JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling) in 1964, an organization to oversea the newly created Deep Sea Drilling Program. creating a national coopertive effort for deep ocean sampling. With a sweet $5.4 million in cold cash appropriated by the United States senate in 1966, the program obtained the Glomar Challenger, the program's ship used until 1984. International participation in the program began in the mid-1970's when Germany, France, Japan, the UK, and the USSR (wow, remember those guys?) became members.

Currently, funding for the program is provided by the National Science Foundation with the cooperation of eight international members that represent over 20 countries:

The Ocean Drilling Program's ship, the JOIDES Resolution, is, according to the program's website (1), "the only research vessel of its kind in the world." The ship is 143 meters long, 21 meters wide, and can handle 9150 meters of drill pipe, allowing the ship to drill in over 99% of the oceans in the world. The JOIDES Resolution can drill in waters up to 8235 meters deep. This ship makes six scientific expeditions per year, each about two months in length and staffed with thirty scientists.

The locations studied by the Ocean Drilling Program vary, as do the scientific goals motivating the cruise. At the time of this writeup, the current "Leg" that the program is completing is #204, drilling off the shore of Oregon, where massive hydrates are present in order to study hydrate formation and their effects on the environment. Leg #205 will take place near Costa Rica and study the seismic and subduction action going on at the convergent margin. The program's website maintains information about the current and future cruises, and has a huge database detailing information about each core retrieved from each cruise in the past.

(1) www.oceandrilling.org
(2) http://joides.rsmas.miami.edu/files/guide2odp99.pdf
(3) http://books.nap.edu/books/0309063981/html/104.html#pagetop

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