Revisiting the Atlantis Massif...
Fig. 1. Location of Atlantis Transform area. Basemap from Dr. Donna Blackman.
Planning for this cruise began in 1996, after Donna Blackman and Joe Cann discovered the unusual massif during a previous expedition aboard the British research ship Charles Darwin. "We had not planned to come here at all, " Blackman recalled as navigational charts once again positioned the mountain less than 1,000 meters below her feet on the R/V Atlantis' deck.
They and their colleagues had intended to study faults and fissures at the western end of the Atlantis Transform where that slipping fault links with the offset continuation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge to the south. But Tobi, the British towed side-scan sonar they were then using, was experiencing technical problems that caused them to reassess when and where to deploy it. So they went to the transform's eastern end as well, taking them past the Atlantis massif.
Tobi reflections there, combined with sonar mapping they did of the structure's underwater topography - or "bathymetry" - revealed the strange corrugations running along the dome's abnormally smooth top, and few signs of the volcanic activity expected on the flanks of the spreading, crust-producing ocean ridges. The group began drafting a scientific paper on their discoveries while still aboard the Charles Darwin. That paper was published in January, 1997 as a letter to the prestigious journal, Nature. By then Blackman had teamed up with Karson and Kelley, co-principal investigators on this expedition, for National Science Foundation (NSF) funding to return to the scene.
Link to Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature/
Link to NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/
While that first proposal was turned down, the NSF did give the nod in 1997. Ship time took three years longer to acquire. Atlantis was just not available for work on the Atlantic until now, on the way back to its homeport at Woods Hole just before Christmas. Blackman chose her expedition's team of geologists, geophysicists, geochemists and petrologists carefully. "I know these people," she said. "The people out here are really the people we need. This is the group I would like to be out here with."
Revisiting the Atlantis Massif | Technical Difficulties | Side-scan Sonar Deployment