, Volume 12, Issue 1-2, pp 59-68

An active source electromagnetic sounding system for marine use

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Instrumentation has been developed for carrying out active source electromagnetic sounding experiments in the deep oceans. Experiments of this type are directly and uniquely sensitive to the presence of molten or partially molten material, to temperature structure and to the porosity of upper crustal rocks such as those that accommodate hydrothermal circulation systems. Electromagnetic sounding experiments therefore represent an extremely desirable addition to the existing range of geophysical techniques for studying geological processes in thermally, hydrothermally or magmatically active regions—for example, at oceanic spreading centres.

The instruments can be operated in regions of rugged, unsedimented sea bottom terrain, and are designed for investigating the distribution of electrical conductivity within the oceanic crust and uppermost mantle. The instrumentation consists of a deep towed, horizontal electric dipole transmitter and a set of free-fall, sea bottom, horizontal electric field recording devices.

The transmitter is a deep-towed instrument, which is provided with power from the towing ship through a conducting cable. The transmitter package is fitted with an integral echo sounder, which allows it to be towed safely a short distance above the seabed. Electromagnetic signals are transmitted from a neutrally-buoyant antenna array, which is streamed behind the deep tow.

The sea bottom receiving instruments each consist of a recoverable package which contains the instrumentation and digital recording system, an acoustic release unit, four low-noise, porous electrodes arranged in two orthogonal, horizontal dipoles, and a disposable bottom weight.

The instruments have been used at sea on three occasions. On their most recent use, active source signals were successfully recorded during an experiment to investigate crustal magmatism and hydrothermal circulation beneath the axis of the East Pacific Rise.