The primary objective of International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 381 was to retrieve a record of early continental rifting and basin evolution from the Corinth rift, central Greece. Continental rifting is fundamental for the formation of ocean basins, and active rift zones are dynamic regions of high geohazard potential. However, the detailed spatial and temporal evolution of a complete rift system needed to understand rift development from the fault to plate scale is poorly resolved. In the active Corinth rift, deformation rates are high, the recent synrift succession is preserved and complete offshore, and earlier rift phases are preserved onshore. Additionally, a dense seismic database provides high-resolution imaging of the fault network and seismic stratigraphy around the basin. As the basin has subsided, its depositional environment has been affected by fluctuating global sea level and its absolute position relative to sea level, and the basin sediments record this changing environment through time. In Corinth, we can therefore achieve an unprecedented precision of timing and spatial complexity of rift-fault system development, rift-controlled drainage system evolution, and basin fill in the first few million years of rift history. The following are the expedition themes:
- High-resolution fault slip and rift evolution history,
- Surface processes in active rifts,
- High-resolution late Quaternary Eastern Mediterranean paleoclimate and paleoenvironment of a developing rift basin, and
- Geohazard assessment in an active rift.
These objectives were and will be accomplished as a result of successful drilling, coring, and logging at three sites in the Gulf of Corinth, which collectively yielded 1645 m of recovered core over a 1905 m cored interval. Together, these cores provide (1) a long rift history (Sites M0078 and M0080), (2) a high-resolution record of the most recent phase of rifting (Site M0079), and (3) the spatial variation of rift evolution (comparison of sites in the central and eastern rift). The sediments contain a rich and complex record of changing sedimentation, sediment and pore water geochemistry, and environmental conditions from micropaleontological assemblages. The preliminary chronology developed by shipboard analyses will be refined and improved during postexpedition research, providing a high-resolution chronostratigraphy down to the orbital timescale for a range of tectonic, sedimentological, and paleoenvironmental studies. This chronology will provide absolute timing of key rift events, rates of fault movement, rift extension and subsidence, and the spatial variations of these parameters. The core data will also allow us to investigate the relative roles of and feedbacks between tectonics, climate, and eustasy in sediment flux, basin evolution, and basin environment. Finally, the Corinth rift boreholes will provide the first long Quaternary record of Mediterranean-type climate in the region. The potential range of scientific applications for this unique data set is very large, encompassing tectonics, sedimentary processes, paleoenvironment, paleoclimate, paleoecology, geochemistry, and geohazards.