In the depths of the ocean, scientists have dug the deepest hole under the sea4 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Have you ever gone to your garden and just started digging? Have you dug and dug and dug, hoping to reach the centre of the Earth?
Well, chances are that you gave up before you did. Now, this may seem like a silly thing that you did as a kid, but would you believe it if I told you that two of the worlds’ most powerful nations once competed to reach the centre of the Earth?
That’s right! The United States and the Soviet Union were once embroiled in a bitter competition to be the first to reach the Earth’s mantle. Neither got close at all. In fact, they barely scratched the Earth’s surface. Our planet is surrounded by a relatively thin egg-shell like crust, and so far, no one has been able to reach even close to its limit.
The Soviet Union was a powerful country that existed up to 1991. It was the USA’s biggest rival, and the two countries were constantly embroiled in bitter but mostly peaceful competition. In 1991, the Soviet Union was split up into fifteen nations, of which Russia is the largest well known. Russia continues to be one of the United States’ most fierce competitors.
The W(hole) history
So, the United States and the Soviet Union both drilled into the ground and gave it their best shot. Let’s see how they fared.
America’s attempt at the worlds’ most penetrating hole is known as Project Mohole. Project Mohole involved a dig somewhere in Mexico, where the Earth’s crust is particularly shallow. They named their project after the Mohorovicic discontinuity, which is the divide between the Earth’s crust and mantle. But, you guessed it, they barely got far at all and had to give up when their drill hit temperatures of 180 degrees Fahrenheit!
Kola Superdeep Borehole
The Soviet Union did a lot better. They dug the Kola well, or Kola Superdeep Borehole, in the Kola peninsula, which is located at Russia’s northern border. The Russians reached the depth of 12 whopping kilometres before abandoning their expensive project. To date, the Kola Superdeep Borehole is the deepest hole ever dug on land or under the sea!
The Kola Superdeep Borehole (ten points for the cool name) is often referred to as the entrance to hell. This is because microphones sent into the depths of the hole have returned a deep troubling rumble. Locals claim that this is, in fact, the sound of people chattering in hell.
However, that’s rather unlikely. That’s because, even though the Russians got the furthest, they barely scratched the Earth’s surface. After twenty long years of digging, the Kola Superdeep Borehole had only been drilled as deep as 1/3rd of the Earth’s crust. So after a twenty-year-long dig, the end of the Soviet Union brought about the end of the Kola well’s journey into the Earth.
The Glomar Challenger
Now, let’s get to the seabed. The Glomar Challenger drilled under the seabed of the Mariana Trench (the lowest natural point on the surface of the Earth) in the Pacific Ocean in 1978. From the deepest point, the Glomar Challenger drill dug a hole about 7 kilometres deep. The purpose of this dig was to study the rocks in the crust. These rocks would help scientists understand earthquakes and… (keep up with the news in hell?)
Well, they may not meet Hitler and the grim reaper, but earthquakes can be pretty hellish. And the havoc caused on the surface of the Earth is rea
Knocked it out of the park
Now there’s a new contender for the deepest hole dug under the sea. And it’s off the coast of Japan. The research vessel Kaimei drilled a hole in the seabed of the Pacific Ocean a whole kilometre deeper than the Glomar challenger. In just two hours, Kaimei had dug 8 kilometres into the Earth’s surface and gathered the rocks and soil that were lodged there.
So, why did they do it?
Well, even though they did just knock the deepest-hole-dug-under-the- sea record out of the park, scientists actually dug this hole for research. The Kaimei drilled near the point where one of Japan’s most devastating Earthquake’s originated. Scientists will study the rocks to understand how they can be forewarned about activities under the Earth that could cause devastation on the surface. They could also use the information they gather to prepare better for earthquakes or maybe even prevent them altogether.
The Kaimei’s dig is still very fresh, so the rocks are yet to be analysed. Until then, we can’t say for sure whether this expensive project was really worth it. Especially because scientists can actually study the inside of the Earth without looking in at all.
With Excerpts From: Union University, Livescience, Livescience, BBC Future, Interesting Engineering, Expedition 386, Livescience, National Geographic, Britannica Kids and The Science Times