Long Range Exploration workshop - report now available

The full report of the workshop of the Long Range Exploration Working Group held at NOC, Southampton, UK in June is now available.


A summary is provided here.

The workshop had three main outcomes:

Segment Scale Studies (S3)

It quickly became clear that the technology (especially AUV) is now available to consider conducting total coverage studies of the seafloor at the first-order segment scale (length n x 100km). The science drivers for this type of study are very strong across a range of disciplines but the resources it will require are significant, confirming that there is a need for InterRidge involvement, coordinating the resources of more than one nation to conduct the work and meaning that the area to be studied needs to be picked with care.  Because this is beyond the scope of the current “Long Range Exploration“ working group we recommend to the InterRidge Office and Steering Committee that the possibility of establishing a new working group focussing on this problem and running a workshop specifically to address segment-scale studies (photographic mapping of axial valley and flanks) be investigated.

Global Exploration (GE)

Main science drivers for global exploration are questions of vent biogeography, variations in fluid compositions in different or novel tectonic and geological situations and questions of tectonic evolution and functioning of the spreading axes.  Our workshop identified 20 future targets for GE activities and prioritized the first 5 of these.  These highest-priority targets have a global distribution and will attract multi-disciplinary scientific interest.  It is clear that continuing international coordination will be required to bring the envisaged research to fruition.

Technological readiness

A range of autonomous underwater vehicles is now available at academic institutions around the world - these vehicles will play a key role in many LRE endeavours.  Other key equipment is also required, however, including ship-based multibeam mapping, CTD, ROV & HOV capabilities. The most technologically challenging aspect of the work, multi-AUV deployments, is judged to be possible and vehicle reliability, although still an issue, is no longer seen as an insurmountable barrier.  We recommend that this technological issue be considered further at a forthcoming international AUV conference in September 2010 “Mapping The World Ocean“.

Additionally it was noted that vast areas of the ridge remain unmapped even at ship-based multibeam resolution.  InterRidge should therefore make every effort to utilize any opportunity to acquire additional data.  One such opportunity is presented by the search for AF447 in the equatorial Atlantic - here side-scan data at <1m resolution and with 100% coverage is being acquired over a ridge-transform intersection at ca. 4°N.  The IR Office should contact the authorities concerned to make this data available when possible for scientific research.