A Cross-Hole, Multi-Year Tracer Injection Experiment in the Volcanic Ocean Crust

Friday, 19 December 2014: 11:12 AM
Andrew T Fisher, UC Santa Cruz, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, Nicole M Neira, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, Charles Geoffrey Wheat, NURP/ Univ Alaska, Moss Landing, CA, United States, Jordan F Clark, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, Keir Becker, Univ Miami - RSMAS, Miami, FL, United States, Chih-Chiang Hsieh, University of Hawaii at Manoa Oceanography, Honolulu, HI, United States and Michael S Rappe, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States
We present preliminary results from the first cross-hole tracer injection experiment in the volcanic ocean crust. The test site is on 3.5 to 3.6 M.y. old seafloor on the eastern flank of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Six borehole subseafloor observatories (CORKs) were installed during three scientific ocean drilling expeditions, five arrayed along a 1 km profile aligned with the strike of underlying abyssal hills (Holes 1026B, 1301A/B, and 1362A/B), and one offset 2.4 km to the east (1027C). Before installing the sixth CORK in Hole 1362B, in 2010, we injected a mixture of tracers (dissolved gas, metal salts, particles) during 24 hours into the upper ocean crust. Seafloor samplers connected CORKs, sampling from different locations in the crust, were recovered during servicing expeditions in 2011 and 2013; downhole samplers that contain records from the full four years following tracer injection will be recovered in Summer 2014. Analyses of dissolved gas tracers collected with wellhead samplers through 2013 suggest that the dominant flow direction in upper basement is south to north, as inferred from regional thermal data and the chemistry of geochemical (pore fluid and borehole) samples. The apparent tracer flow rate in upper basement is on the order of meters/day, but calculations are complicated by an incomplete CORK seal in Hole 1301A, which resulted in discharge from this system that also "pulled" water and tracer to the south. Samples were collected from the tracer injection borehole, Hole 1362B, and a sampling site 200 m to the north, Hole 1362A, beginning one year after tracer injection, after opening a large-diameter ball valve on the wellhead of Hole 1362B to initiate a long-term free flow experiment. Analyses of these samples suggest that much of the tracer injected in 2010 remained close to Hole 1362B rather than being advected and dispersed into the formation. It also appears that much of the tracer transport to Hole 1362A occurred within one or more relatively thin/isolated zones, because tracer concentrations remain relatively high and there is a long tail of gradually decreasing values during the last two years of sampling. This interpretation is consistent with the highly layered and laterally continuous volcanic stratigraphy observed in basement boreholes drilled at Sites 1301 and 1362.