Question Sheet: Deep Drilling at Sea


Before reading:

  1. What sorts of things would you expect to find drilling into the ocean floor?
  2. Why would scientists do research aboard a ship at sea?

During reading:

  1. What is the JOIDES Resolution?
  2. When did the ocean drilling program begin, and what was one of the first scientific discoveries made by researchers in the program?
  3. Explain why Andrew Fisher compares the deep sea drilling project to the Hubble space telescope.
  4. Describe the process that scientists go through once someone yells “core on deck.”
  5. What is Mark Nielsen’s interest in this trip? How might his discoveries relate to other scientific work?
  6. What kinds of stresses or strains might a person aboard a drillship for nearly 2 months experience?

After reading:

  1. Based on the information in the article, draw a diagram of what you think the boat is like. Be sure to label important parts of the ship. For additional information about the ship, see rilling Program, Texas A&M University).
  2. Name at least four different uses for the samples that this research ship is collecting.
  3. Why is it important to drill into Earth’s crust not only on land but also in the middle of the ocean?
  4. Imagine that you had a sample of the rock that scientists gather in the ocean drilling project. What would you want to study in the sample? Design an experiment that you might perform.
  5. Where do you think scientists get money for projects like the one described in the article? For additional information on funding, see Science Foundation).
  6. What risks might there be in going on an expedition aboard the JOIDES Resolution? What sorts of accidents could happen?


  1. How far is it from Vancouver, British Columbia, to the port of Golfito on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica?
  2. On a map of the world, locate the following drilling sites, given their latitudes and longitudes:

    • Northernmost drilling site: Latitude 80.5 degrees North, Longitude 8.2 degrees East.
    • Southernmost drilling site: Latitude 70.8 degrees South, Longitude 14.6 degrees West.


  1. If you were going away from your friends and family for 55 days, what would you pack? Make a list of everything you would bring. Remember that you can take only a small number of things—not more than what would fit into an ordinary suitcase.
  2. How do you think you would amuse yourself in your time off during a 55-day voyage? Invent a card game that you could teach to other people aboard the ship. Write out the rules clearly so that anyone could learn to play the game.


From January 1985 to September 2003, the JOIDES Resolution operated for 6,591 days and traveled 355,781 nautical miles, visiting a total of 669 sites and drilling 1,797 holes to recover 35,772 cores.

  1. On average, how far did the ship travel per day?
  2. On average, how many holes were drilled at each site the ship visited?
  3. On average, how many cores were recovered from each hole?
  4. What is a nautical mile, and how does it differ from a normal mile and a kilometer? For information about the nautical mile, see (HowStuffWorks).