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Deep Drilling Project in the Forearc of the Hellenic Subduction Zone



CreteThe Hellenic forearc, Eastern Mediterranean, Greece, is a well constrained example of a retreating subduction zone, at the present day as well as for the past 30 Ma. The roll back is accommodated by extension in the frontal part of the upper plate. In the following a scientific program is suggested that comprises several drillholes into the forearc, on Crete and offshore to the south and southwest of the island, in order to unravel the present physical state and the tectonic history of the forearc. Between 30 and 20 Ma, a microcontinent has collided with the retreating subduction zone. The offscraped sedimentary cover, inpart high pressure - low temperature metamorphic, is exposed on Crete, a complex horst structure within the present forearc. There, the high pressure - low temperature metamorphic rocks were exhumed within a few million years after collision. The whereabouts of the large volume of once underlying continental crust of normal thickness is uncertain. The buoyant escape model implies exhumation driven by bouyancy forces into the space created by the renewed roll back of the subduction, that has shifted towards the rear of the microcontinent subsequent to collision and slab brakeoff. According to this model, the continental crust of the former microcontinent should underly the present forearc, extremely thinned by radial and tangential extension. The mechanics of this process are poorly understood, as are the crustal structure of the present forarc, the nature of the backstop to the accretionary Mediterranean Ridge, the extent of wedging of sediments between upper and lower plate in the shallowly dipping frontal part of the subduction zone, and the coupling between the plates as a fundamental problem. These questions are tackled by a research program, part of which is onshore and offshore drilling.

(Photo ©:NASA)



Europe, Mediterranean Sea, Greece, Crete, Hellenic Forearc



35° N, 25° E (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • not yet determined


Programs and Funding


Principal Investigators
  • Dimitrios Papanikolaou, University of Athens, Department for Dynamic Tectonic and Applied Geology


Cooperating Principal Investigators
  • Nikos Fytrolakis, National Technical University of Athens, Department of Geological Sciences
  • Jannis Makris, University of Hamburg, Institute of Geophysics
  • Theodoros Markopoulos, Technical University of Crete, Department of Mineral Resources Engineering, Laboratory of Petrology and Economic Geology
  • Eberhard Seidel, University of Cologne, Institute of Geology and Mineralogy, Quaternary Geology


Partners and Contractors



Active Fault Zones, Collision Zones, CRETE, Drilling, Earthquakes, Greece, Hellenic Subduction Zone, ICDP-1998/06, Mediterranean Sea


Current State



Google Earth/Maps