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In the second half of the 1960s, after geophysical investigations had proved the structural differences between continental and oceanic crusts, both Russian and American scientists decided to drill deep holes to better understand the Conrad and Mohorovicic (Moho) discontinuities (boundaries between the upper and lower continental crust and between the crust and mantle, respectively). Thus competition that began between the former Soviet Union and the US with the atomic bomb and continued during the initial steps toward conquering space extended into earth sciences as well.

In 1967 the Former Soviet Union began drilling a super deep hole on the Kola Peninsula, with the primary objective to reach the Moho boundary. In the US, deep sea drilling started in 1968. This tough confrontation (characteristic of the cold-war epoch) did not, however, affect scientific cooperation: Close contacts developed between Russian and American scientists from the earliest phases of deep sea drilling. As far back as 1971, Russian scientists A.P. Lisitsyn and V.A. Krasheninnikov participated in the US Deep Sea Drilling Project, and in 1974 the USSR Academy of Sciences became the first foreign partner in this successful project.

From the very beginning of DSDP, Russian scientists have been especially interested in the drilling programs' data on deep sedimentation and the stratigraphy of upper Mesozoic and Cenozoic sediments. Though systematic ocean drilling supported the plate-tectonic concept of Earth's evolution and every new cruise brought new geophysical and geological data confirming it, in our country, where this concept was not readily accepted, scientists focused on the drilling results that were inconsistent with plate tectonics. However, most of the small group of Russian scientists who participated in Glomar Challenger cruises from 1974 to 1981 returned home as ardent defenders of this concept. As new data on seafloor geology was gradually assimilated, more and more supporters of modern plate tectonics appeared in our country, and by the mid 1980s the majority of USSR marine geologists supported plate-tectonic theory.

Despite being slow to accept lithospheric plate motion, Russian geologists were among the world leaders of ocean drilling, especially in the first stage, from 1968 to 1980. Their interest in oceanic crust was sparked by the abundance of ophiolite rocks found on the vast former Soviet Union territory. (Ophiolites are segments of oceanic crust found on land--now known to be pushed into the continents by plate collisions). The age of these ophiolites ranges from late Cretaceous at the Pacific Ocean coast to late Precambrian in Altai, Central Asia. Dredging the ocean floor helped confirm the identities of ophiolitic sections, but Russian marine geologists and geophysicists who participated in the Deep Sea Drilling Project did not fully accept this view until 1981, when a dike complex was penetrated in Hole 504B. Today, nobody doubts the similarity of oceanic crust and continental ophiolites, though they may differ in chemical composition. It is a pity that continental geologists' ideas about the advantages of offset drilling over super deep drilling for studying crustal magmatic rocks was given no priority by the ODP Planning Committee. Offset drilling of holes 250 to 300 meters deep would reveal details about the small-scale transitions between crustal layers that cannot be obtained from deeply drilled holes (1,500 meters or so).

Russian scientists participated continuously in deep sea drilling from 1974 to 1981, when their participation was interrupted because of the political climate at the height of the cold war. In 1991 with great support from Joint Oceanographic Institutions Inc. and the US National Science Foundation, Russian scientists returned, only to retreat the following year for economic reasons. Despite a less-than-encouraging economic situation for scientific investigation in our country, our scientists remain optimistic--and the optimism brings rewards: The past year and a half of our participation in ODP has been the most fruitful. We collected much data on lithology, stratigraphy, and other Pacific geology fields, mainly pertaining to this region's Cenozoic history. Unfortunately, since no deep sea drilling has yet been done in seas adjacent to Russia or the Arctic, our scientists can so far only correlate Pacific drilling results with those from distant Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands. Using material they collected while on cruises and data obtained from studying ODP core samples and the Initial Reports and Scientific Results volumes, Russian scientists have published 16 separate books and several hundred scientific articles. The largest recent review of ocean drilling results was a catalog of all deep sea drilling cores from the Pacific and the Atlantic in geological and geophysical atlases for these oceans.

Russian scientists have maintained close contacts with NSF, even during the periods when they were unable to participate in Glomar Challenger or JOIDES Resolution cruises. We have always felt like full partners of ODP, as we have been kept apprised of drilling results and ODP activity by Texas A&M University. Unfortunately, economic complications dictate that our partnership and publication flow will cease this year. Nevertheless, Russian scientists consider it fortunate that with the help of American scientists and other ODP partners they have had 20 years of deep sea drilling involvement.

Nikita A. Bogdanov has been chairman of the Russian Committee on the Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP) and then the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) since 1980. He is Director of the Institute of the Lithosphere, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and a Moscow State University professor.
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Title Annotation:25 Years of Ocean Drilling; Ocean Drilling Program report
Author:Bogdanov, Nikita A.
Date:Dec 22, 1993
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