- © 2011 by the Seismological Society of America
In the last three decades our knowledge about the seismic structure and the seismicity of the world's oceans has increased tremendously through the common availability of ocean bottom seismometers for active and passive seismic studies (e.g., Orcutt et al. 1976; Toomey et al. 1985; Tolstoy et al. 2008). The safe recovery of the instruments is essential to access the acquired data. Comparable studies of the polar oceans do not exist, because the perennial sea-ice cover in polar regions prevents a safe recovery of ocean bottom instruments. Hence, the seismic structure and the earthquake activity of large parts of the Arctic Ocean, including the Gakkel Ridge, one of the most prominent members of ultraslow-spreading mid-ocean ridges (< 20 mm/y full rate; Dick et al. 2003), are largely unknown. Mounting conventional land seismometers on drifting sea ice is the only way to acquire seismic data in the Arctic Ocean. The difficult access to the survey area, which requires icebreaking vessels and helicopters, and the cold temperatures and a constantly moving seismometer platform, represent highly unsuitable survey conditions.
However, Kristoffersen et al. (1982) made first attempts at recording regional earthquakes in the Arctic by attaching a sonobuoy array to an ice floe. Jokat et al. (2003) demonstrated that the acquisition of refraction seismic data is possible with seismic stations mounted on drifting ice floes. Okal and MacAyeal (2006) report on a deployment of seismometers on icebergs in Antarctica recording a variety of ice-induced (cryogenic) signals (MacAyeal et al. 2009).
We deployed seismic arrays on drifting sea ice during four expeditions in 2001, 2007, 2008, and 2009, recording local and regional earthquakes along Gakkel Ridge. In addition, the records contained many sorts of cryogenic signals (“icequakes”) stemming possibly from collisions between ice floes, crack formation, or disintegration of ice floes …