Scientists begin another attempt to drill through the Earth’s crust

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An expedition to the Indian Ocean is about to begin an effort to drill a core down through the Earth’s crust and into its mantle.

Geologists have been trying to drill through the contact between the crust and the mantle, called the Moho, since the 1960s, with no success. Either the projects have gone way over budget and been shut down, have failed due to engineering problems, or were stopped by the geology itself. This last issue is maybe the most interesting.

Expeditions have come close before. Between 2002 and 2011, four holes at a site in the eastern Pacific managed to reach fine-grained, brittle rock that geologists believe to be cooled magma sitting just above the Moho. But the drill could not punch through those tenacious layers. And in 2013, drillers at the nearby Hess Deep found themselves similarly limited by tough deep-crustal rocks

This new project hopes to learn from these past problems to obtain the first rock samples from below the Earth’s crust.


  • jburn

    Also of note, there is an interesting reference to the possible origin of some “fossil” fuels being an ongoing byproduct of microorganisms.

    “Along the way, researchers hope to explore not just geology, but biology, too. Geological mapping suggests that seawater may have percolated several kilometres deep at Atlantis Bank, triggering chemical reactions that turn the rock into a type known as serpentinite. These reactions generate methane, a gas that sub-sea-floor microbes often munch for energy. JOIDES Resolution scientists will be checking the rock cores for microorganisms, says Virginia Edgcomb, a microbiologist at Woods Hole who will be on the cruise.”

  • D.K. Williams

    So, for what reason do these guys expect to find anything different from ordinary magma flowing from a volcano?

  • Cotour

    By extension, is drilling this 8″ hole into the Moho risking creating terrorists?

    Using president Obama’s and Bill Nye’s logic, by human beings drilling this hole having the now stated risk in the media of causing an 8+ level earth quake is a reasonable reason to shut down this project. 1. Earth quake set off by human activity causes destruction and possible Tsunamis 2. people on the earths surface will be displaced and disaffected 3. by their own logic this will cause the displaced and disaffected people to become terrorists.

    The logic is perfect, this project by human beings must not be allowed to move ahead because it has the potential to create terror! The U.N. must intervene and have this stopped immediately!

  • ORION314

    Someone was mentioning that the old 60’s scifi movie with Dana Andrews “Crack in the World” was quite good and scary…found it on utube.

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