IceSUSTAIN is the Iceland-based part of the SUSTAIN drilling program (Surtsey Underwater volcanic System for Thermophiles, Alteration processes and INnovative Concretes), a multidisciplinary international project bringing together over 40 scientists from 10 countries (Australia, Germany, Iceland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and USA). The project focusses on the volcanic island of Surtsey, created by 1963–1967 basaltic eruptive activity within the southern offshore extension of the SE Icelandic volcanic rift zone. Two new drillholes are planned. One will extract a 210 m vertical core adjacent and parallel to the 180 m hole drilled in 1979 (Jakobsson & Moore 1986) and the other will extract a 300 m inclined core that further explores the volcanic edifice of Surtsey. The drilling will be complemented by analysis of the eruptive activity and geophysical surveys. Surtsey was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 (Baldursson & Ingadóttir 2007), and "has been protected since its birth, providing the world with a pristine natural laboratory.” It represents a world-class example of a rift zone volcano that has grown from the sea floor in historic time.
The totality of the hydrothermally altered deposits of Surtsey can only be sampled by drilling. The proposed drilling project will use the natural laboratory of the Surtsey tephra above and below sea level and interdisciplinary volcanological, microbial, geochemical, mineralogical, and geoarchaeological research programs to undertake scientific investigations situated within the larger International Scientific Continental Drilling Program (ICDP) research themes of hydrothermal seawater–rock interactions in rift zone volcanism, the succession of early microbial life, and the development of industrial resources using palagonitic tuff as a prototype for sustainable, high performance concretes.