Abstract

Leg 76 of the Deep Sea Drilling Project achieved two major scientific objectives. The first objective was met at Site 533, where on the Blake Outer Ridge, gas hydrates were identified by geophysical, geochemical, and geological studies. Gas-hydrate decomposition produced a volumetric expansion of 20:1 of gas volume to pore-fluid volume; this expansion exceeded by about a factor of four the volume of gas that could be released from solution in pore water under similar conditions. The gas hydrate includes methane, ethane, propane, and isobutane but apparently excluded normal butane and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons as predicted from gas hydrate crystallography. For the first time, marine gas hydrates were tested with a pressure core barrel.

The second objective was achieved when coring at Site 534 in the Blake-Bahama Basin sampled the oldest oceanic sediments yet recovered. The sequence of oceanic basement and overlying sediments documents the geologic history of the early stages of the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean in detail. The oldest oceanic sediments are red claystones and laminated green and brown claystones of middle Callovian age. This finding supports the interpretation that the beginning of the modern North Atlantic occurred in the early Callovian (∼ 155 m.y. B.P.), as much as 20 m.y. later in time than often previously thought.

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