ocean core drilling barge graphic

ATLANTIC CITY - In Steven Spielberg's hands, that boat you see in the marina today - the one with the three skyscraping legs - would be a movie star: "War of the Worlds: Three if by Sea."

The Louisiana liftboat Kayd is the responsibility of scientists, drillers and nautical types, however, so it's not trying to destroy the world. Far from it.

A team of about 40 will leave Wednesday night to spend more than three months 30 to 40 miles east of Long Beach Island. The drilling will remove samples of sediment that settled 14 to 24 million years ago, a period of extreme fluctuation in the climate, said Carl Blesch, a spokesman for Rutgers professor Greg Mountain.

The international consortium Integrated Ocean Drilling Program hopes new evidence of climate-change history can inform the contemporary study of global warming. The project is budgeted at $13 million, director of communications Nancy Light said.

The IODP enlisted the Louisiana contractor Montco Offshore Inc. to provide and operate the vessel and the nonprofit research group DOSECC to drill.

The self-propelling, 138-foot Kayd arrived last Tuesday afternoon, after 15 days at sea, from its home port in Louisiana, said Farrel Charpentier, the Montco boat captain.

In transit, the Kayd's three 245-foot legs extend up from the bottom of the hull. When it's time to drill - in the shallow waters that traditional drilling ships can't ply - hydraulic pumps extend the legs as far as 180 feet below the water to steady the vessel.

A crane then hangs over the bow to lower the drilling equipment. DOSECC expects to plumb as deep as 750 meters, director of operations Chris Delahunty said. The boat itself is usually kept well above water level in case of sudden swells.

The Kayd has never done environmental drills before, only oil explorations in the Gulf of Mexico, but Charpentier said it needs very little adaptation for its new job. An official from a wind-farm company met with Charpentier on Monday to discuss still another use for the Kayd, the captain said.

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