On April 12, 2023, geologists, microbiologists and other scientists sailed to the Atlantis Massif, a 14,000-foot underwater mountain sitting on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. The plan: To dig into an already existing 4,640-foot hole drilled nearly 20 years ago to 6,750 feet. They collected rock from the Earth’s mantle. The temperatures were over 204 degrees Celsius. Deep digging expeditions are currently underway all across the world.
This is the first time humans have dug through the Earth’s crust. In the past 60 years, thanks to deep-water drilling by the oil industry, drilling technology has advanced significantly. We have improved drill bits, tools and instruments that are much more able to withstand heat and pressure. GPS (global positioning satellites) much it much easier to keep a drilling ship in exactly the same spot in deep water.
UPDATE: I have another article describing more of the work of Ocean floor drilling. Drilling into the Mantle was done at the Atlantis Massif. There is a hydrothermal field called the Lost City on the ocean floor. Drilling in and under the seafloor gives us the history of life and vent fields could be similar to the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
Composition and Layers of Oceanic Crust
The crust is the outermost layer of Earth above the mantle. As discussed earlier, crust can be divided into two types: continental crust and oceanic crust. The continental crust ranges from 25 to 70 km thick and makes up a total of approximately 70 percent of Earth’s total crust volume, though it only covers about 40 percent of the planet’s surface area. The oceanic crust is much thinner, ranging from 5 to 10 km thick.
The continental crust has an average density of 2.7 g/cm3 and is composed primarily of felsic rock. Felsic rock is rich in light elements such as silicon, aluminum, oxygen, sodium, and potassium. The presence of these lighter elements is responsible for continental crust being slightly less dense than oceanic crust, which has an average density of 2.9 g/cm3.
In 1981, Scientists discovered the thinnest portion of the Earth’s crust — a 1-mile thick, earthquake-prone spot under the Atlantic Ocean where the American and African continents connect. This is where the ocean drilling ship JOIDES Resolution dug through to the mantle.
— IODP at Texas A&M (@JRSO_IODP) May 25, 2023
hydrothermal field called the Lost City on the ocean floor. It is not the an actual lost city.
In the early 1960s, a group of scientists flagged off “Project Mohole”. It aimed to drill a hole (Mexico) through the core to reach the boundary between the crust and mantle called Mohorovičić Discontinuity or Moho, in short. Oceanic crusts are thinner than their continental counterparts. So, the sea route was a natural choice. This expedition was crucial in demonstrating that drilling was technologically possible. But due to a lack of funding the project was dissolved.
In 1989, a Russian project in the Kola peninsula drilled 12.2 km into the earth’s crust — the deepest hole dug so far. The rocks extracted from it at a depth of about 3 km were almost identical to lunar soil. At 10 km depth, the team found petrified remains of ancient living organisms.
In 2015, an expedition led by an Indian researcher (Dhananjay Pandey) spent about 60 days drilling two holes in the Lakshmi basin of the Arabian Sea. The team reached depths of 1.1 km below the sea floor in 3.6 km deep water. The motive was to collect samples and investigate when the South Asian monsoon intensified.
So far, the 12.2 km record has not been broken.
— IODP at Texas A&M (@JRSO_IODP) May 30, 2023
The JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO) manages and operates the riserless drillship, JOIDES Resolution, for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). The JRSO is based in the Office of the Vice President for Research of Texas A&M University.
The JRSO is responsible for overseeing the science operations of the riserless drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution, archiving the scientific data and samples and logs that are collected, and producing and disseminating program publications. The drillship travels throughout the oceans sampling the sediments and rocks beneath the seafloor. The scientific samples and data are used to study Earth’s past history, including plate tectonics, ocean currents, climate changes, evolutionary characteristics and extinctions of marine life, and mineral deposits. Drilling operations are conducted purely for scientific purposes and do not include oil exploration.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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