IODP-MI and Chikyu Staff and Visitors Safe; Upcoming Chikyu Expedition Canceled
On the afternoon of 11 March 2011, the Tohoku region along Japan’s northern Pacific coast suffered a magnitude 8.9 earthquake and large tsunami, followed by numerous aftershocks.
At the time the earthquake hit, the scientific drilling vessel Chikyu was in port at Hachinohe, preparing for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 337 Shimokita Coalbed Biosphere, which was to begin in a few days. Hachinohe lies north of Sendai, the city closest to the epicenter of the earthquake and directly in the path of the resulting tsunami. Hachinohe was also impacted by the tsunami.
Fortunately, the Chikyu evacuated port immediately after the earthquake. All personnel and visitors onboard, as well as all CDEX/JAMSTEC and support staff onshore, are safe and accounted for. During the emergency evacuation, one of the vessel’s thrusters suffered severe damage. The exact circumstances of the damage to the thruster are still being determined. CDEX has officially announced that the current schedule of the IODP Shimokita Coalbed Biosphere Expedition has been postponed indefinitely. Evaluation continues regarding the extent of damage to the Chikyu and the implications of the expedition cancellation. All members of the IODP-Management International (IODP-MI) office in Tokyo are reported safe. For updates on the status of the Chikyu, please visit http://www.jamstec.go.jp/chikyu/eng/index.html. For additional information from IODP-MI’s office in Toyko, please visit http://iodp.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=552&Itemid=1205.