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Expedition 399: Building Blocks of Life, Atlantis Massif
Application deadline: 1 February 2022

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is now accepting applications for scientific participants on Expedition 399: Building Blocks of Life, Atlantis Massif, aboard the JOIDES Resolution.

The Atlantis Massif (AM) Oceanic Core Complex (30°N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge) is one of the earliest sites recognized for the extensive exposure of ultramafic and mafic rocks at the seafloor caused by an oceanic detachment fault, and has been the focus of four IODP Expeditions (304, 305, 340T, and 357). The Lost City Hydrothermal Field (LCHF) is hosted in peridotite on its southern wall and vents alkaline fluids rich in H2 as a by-product of serpentinization. The AM is therefore an ideal natural laboratory for studying tectonics, magmatism, and the interaction between the ocean and lithosphere, as well as their combined influence on ocean chemistry and the subseafloor biosphere.

Expedition 399 has three main scientific objectives:

  1. Characterizing the life-cycle of an oceanic core complex including links among igneous, metamorphic, structural, and fluid flow processes.
  2. Accessing the chemical kitchen preceding the appearance of life on Earth, including the formation of organic molecules of prebiotic interest at high and low temperatures.
  3. Identifying the extent of the deep biosphere and limits for life, including how they are influenced by lithological substrate, porosity and permeability, temperature, fluid chemistry, and reactive gradients.

A principle aim of the expedition is to sample fluids and rocks in a stable regime where active serpentinization may be occurring, creating the conditions where the building blocks for life (H2, CH4, and more complex organic compounds form abiotically. IODP Hole U1309D, located 5 km north of the LCHF, is the deepest (1415 m) hole drilled so far in young (<2 Ma) ocean crust, and recovered a primitive series of gabbroic rocks interpreted in part to be metasomatised peridotite. Expedition 399 will sample fluids in the existing Hole U1309D using newly developed temperature-sensitive sampling tools. It will also deepen Hole U1309D to ~2060 mbsf, where temperatures up to 220°C are predicted, and leave it available for future logging and fluid sampling once thermal equilibrium has returned. The proportion of ultramafic rocks is expected to increase with depth, and at these temperatures serpentinization and hydrogen generation by redox reactions should be actively occurring. Volatiles and organic molecules will be sampled in fluid inclusions to identify the physicochemical conditions that lead to their formation.

A second shallow (~200 mbsf) hole will be cored close to the LCHF to obtain a complete section through a detachment fault zone in serpentinized peridotite, extending the findings of Expedition 357. It targets zones of higher porosity that may facilitate geochemical and microbial processes. A reentry system will be installed to allow for future deeper drilling, logging, fluid sampling, and a borehole observatory. The thermal structure of this Hole will place important constraints on the Lost City circulation system, and there is a possibility of intersecting Lost City fluids pathways.

For more information on the expedition science objectives and the JOIDES Resolution expedition schedule, see This site includes links to individual expedition web pages with the original IODP proposals and expedition planning information.

Original proposals: 937-Full2 & 937-Add PDF

Who should apply

Opportunities exist for researchers (including graduate students) in all shipboard specialties, including but not limited to sedimentologists, petrologists, micropaleontologists, paleomagnetists, petrophysicists, borehole geophysicists, igneous geochemists, inorganic geochemists, organic geochemists, and microbiologists.

We encourage applications from all qualified scientists. The JRSO is committed to a policy of broad participation and inclusion, and to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all program participants.

Where to apply, IODP Program Member Offices

Staffing information