The SUSTAIN drilling program in Surtsey

SUSTAIN: Surtsey Underwater volcanic System for Thermophiles, Alteration processes and INnovative Concretes
Partners: University of Iceland and University of Utah, USA (leaders). Iceland, United States of America, Germany, Norway, Sweeden, United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand and Australia.

Supported by numerous international funds including funds from Germany, Norway, USA and Iceland.

Coordinator at ÍSOR: Tobias B. Weisenberger


The SUSTAIN drilling program will be based on two cored holes, a 200-meter vertical core and a core from a 300-meter angled hole. The inner build and evolution of geothermal heat on the island will be researched as an example of a short-lived geothermal system in a rift zone of an oceanic crust.

The 200-meter-deep vertical hole with anodized aluminum casing would explore pore water chemistry, microbiota-water-rock interactions, and seawater compositional modifications over time. A 300-meter-long angle hole with steel casing inclined west toward the eastern volcanic vent axis would intersect dike intrusions, provide additional information on deep stratigraphy and structure, and investigate higher temperature zones of the hydrothermal system.

The principal scientific objective of new drilling of Surtsey is to describe how hydrothermal diagenetic and biogenetic seawater-rock processes evolve in an extremely well-constrained basaltic system that has great relevance to the growth, lithification, and longevity of rift zone islands, the processes of indigenous microbial colonization and succession in the subsurface geobiosphere, and the cementitious systems of concretes for waste encapsulations and harsh environmental applications.