The Deepest Holes Dug Through the Earth's Crust

Category Science

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In the early 1960s, scientists attempted the first drilling project called Project Mohole with the aim to reach the boundary between the Earth's crust and mantle. In 1989, a Russian project in Kola superdeep borehole set a record by drilling 12.2km into the crust, evidencing the technological advancement achieved since then. In 2015, South Asian monsoon was investigated by an Indian researcher with successful results. The JOIDES Resolution Science Operator is responsible for the operation of the existing riserless drillship that traverses the ocean to study Earth's history.

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This is the first time humans have dug through the Earth’s crust.

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.

Project Mohole and the JOIDES Resolution Science Operator (JRSO) are the two most prominent research organisations researching deep drilling projects.

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.

The deepest hole drilled so far was the Kola Superdeep Borehole, which reached a depth of 12.26 km.

So far, the 12.2 km record has not been broken.

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.

The earliest deep drilling project dates back to 1889, when an oil well was drilled to a depth of 140 m in Pennsylvania.

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