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Geological Sampling

The staff of the Sea Floor Samples Laboratory are responsible for the design, fabrication and deployment of marine geological sampling tools. The inventory consists principally of corers, dredges and grabs specifically sized and configured for use in the deep sea, but adaptation for continental slope and shelf sampling is common. This group will stage and execute various sampling programs, matching equipment and rigging strategies to the needs of the principal investigator. They have developed numerous special hardware assemblies and heavy equipment handling systems for all ships that Woods Hole operates, as well as many others in the UNOLS and USCG Polar fleet. They can provide piston, large diameter gravity, box and multi-corer systems and will install and operate these systems aboard WHOI ships or other vessels.

The efficiency and on-deck operating safety of new, long, large diameter (JPC) piston coring systems has been improved by the development of a hydraulic extrusion system. Thirty meter long cores (in strong PVC liner) can be recovered and turned around quickly for redeployment without the need for “breaking down” the core barrel. More stations can be occupied in a given time period with less disturbance to sample material than with traditional handling methods.

The McLean Laboratory on WHOI’s Quissett Campus houses more than 14,500 archived marine geological samples. The inventory includes long, stratified sediment cores, rock dredges, surface grabs and samples collected by DSV Alvin. Each of the sea floor samples has been carefully preserved and described; twelve volumes of compiled lithologic and petrographic analyses have been distributed to centers of marine geological research around the world. The lab also maintains a user-friendly search and retrieval computer database for ready access to the entire suite of samples and digitized descriptive parameters. Subsamples of the WHOI collection are distributed upon request and at no cost to the investigator.

New capabilities at the Lab include a multi-sensor core logger for non-destructive analysis of physical properties such as bulk density and magnetic susceptibility (available for use at sea), and a large walk-in refrigerated core storage facility.