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Drilling Below the Salt in the Western Mediterranean Sea

Marina Rabineau, Junichiro Kuroda, Andre Droxler, Nobu Eguchi, Daniel Aslanian, Christian Gorini, Karine Alain, and Gold Team

In recent years the Gulf of Lion within the western Mediterranean Sea has become a unique natural laboratory to study both the evolution and interaction of deep processes and surficial processes. Drilling at the foot of the continental slope (2400 m water depth) would enable to reconstruct the complete high-resolution history of the last 30 Ma recorded in some 7 km of sedimentary archive

1) For the substratum: the aim of the drilling is to reach an area with undetermined crust which is essential for the understanding of margin formation

2) The drilling will allow the dating and characterization of the impact of climate variations on sedimentation in the deep basin over the Neogene. The Messinian extreme event also represents a unique case to study the impact of outstanding sea-level drop (more than 1000 m) on sedimentary river behavior, deltaic and evaporitic deposition and ensuing biotic crisis.

3) The drilling will represent a first-class opportunity to study the microbial communities and processes in extremely deep marine sediments of the Mediterranean Sea, so-called “the deepest biosphere”. This site is particularly interesting as it represent an opportunity to reach the biotic fringe and determine the limits of life in terms of depth, physicochemical constraints, isolation and their interactive impact.

Deep drilling through the complete series of sediments is the only way to give an answer to these crucial questions with potential petroleum perspective in frontier area.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90161©2013 AAPG European Regional Conference, Barcelona, Spain, 8-10 April 2013