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Deep Trough Drilling

April 18, 2008—Jonathan Lewis, from IUP’s Geoscience department, is one of only eight U.S. scientists selected for an international expedition on the state-of-the-art drilling vessel Chikyu.

International Expedition

The expedition, organized by Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, the leading marine-earth science research institute in Japan, is to study plate tectonic processes in order to better understand Earth’s largest earthquakes.

The drilling vessel Chikyu

The drilling vessel Chikyu

Lewis’s expedition is part of the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment, a series of expeditions that will occur over the next few years coordinated by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. These expeditions are designed to drill through, sample, and study a multitude of plate tectonic processes involved with the subduction zone off the coast of Japan. 

“The Chikyu is equipped with a specialized casing system to allow us to drill with controlled pressures within the hole and penetrate formations that would otherwise not accommodate drilling equipment because of the pressure of the formations,” Lewis said. 

The Nankai Trough, located off the coast of southern Japan, is one of the most active earthquake zones on the planet and one of the best-studied subduction zones in the world. It has a 1,300-year record of generating earthquakes that typically cause tsunamis, including the 1944 Tonankai and the 1946 Nankaido earthquakes.

Jonathan Lewis touring the drilling operations on Chikyu

Jonathan Lewis touring the drilling operations on Chikyu

“We’re making great progress with our work in spite of a short period of rough seas related to the tail end of a typhoon. The collection of international scientists I’m working with is amazing, and the discussions about what we’re coring through are energized,” he said.

For more information about the expedition, visit www.jamstec.go.jp/chikyu/eng/Expedition/NantroSEIZE.