Univ. of Miami Marine Geologists To “Journey to the Earth’s Core”

Becker, Inderbitzen appear on History Channel documentary as part of IODP Expedition

Becker, Inderbitzen

MIAMI — Humans have mapped significant portions of the globe – from jungles and deserts to the depths of space. “Journey To The Earth’s Core,” a new History Channel program delves deeper than ever before – nearly 4,000 miles below sea level. The show features scientists, engineers, explorers and adventurers, and premiered on Wednesday, March 23.

The ongoing research of University of Miami (UM) Marine Geology and Geophysics Professor Keir Becker and Ph.D. candidate Katherine Inderbitzen will be featured because they participated in a scientific expedition in summer 2010. The two UM scientists joined UM alumnus and Expedition Co-Chief Scientist Andy Fisher, and more than 20 other scientists and educators from around the world aboard the scientific ocean drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution. The eight-week Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) expedition installed two new subseafloor observatories (CORKs) on the Juan de Fuca Ridge flank, which is located off the coast of Washington (U.S.) and British Columbia (Canada). These new observatories will allow scientists to investigate the hydrogeology, geochemistry, and microbiology of oceanic crust. In addition, scientists collected and analyzed nearly 200 m (657 ft) of rock cored from the ocean crust and conducted hydrologic tests in the area.

“The upper ocean crust is very porous and permeable, and is potentially a huge reservoir for water that cools the crust, provides a habitat for microbial life, and helps control the balance of the ocean’s chemistry,” said Inderbitzen. “However, we know almost nothing about how the water moves around inside the crust. CORKs allow us to observe the natural state of fluids in the crust over long periods of time.”

Inderbitzen has been working with the CORKs on Juan de Fuca for almost five years now, but had never taken part in installing a new one before this expedition. Her role on Exp. 327 was to run the Physical Properties Lab and maintain the pressure data loggers that go on each CORK. Each logger had to be pressure tested and checked before it was deployed. The loggers record the pressure at the seafloor and inside the borehole, which allows the team to see how and when fluids move from one place to another in the monitored area.

“We are able to observe seismic events using these observatories. In fact, one of the CORKs (installed in 2005), which is connected to the NEPTUNE Canada cabled observatory, picked up the activity of the recent earthquake in Japan, as well as the tsunami wave as it passed over the CORK’s location,” she added.

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

history channel •  katherine inderbitzen •  geochemistry •  marine geology and geophysics •  dr. keir becker •