Humans know a lot about the sun, the stars, and the solar system but as it turns out, there’s lots more to learn, specifically about the Earth. While man’s spatial quests have led to mapping galaxies, and more recently, Mars’ surface, underground explorations are rarely talked about.
Since the 1950s, scientists have conducted experiments to look further into the Earth’s crust. They have spent decades drilling down the planet’s subterranean and have found some incredibly interesting discoveries along the way.
Read on to learn more about these trips down under and some of their fascinating unearthings!
In 1958, the U.S. pioneered experiments on earth’s crust when it launched Project Mohole. The operation was held near Guadalupe in Mexico, at the bed of the Pacific Ocean to a depth of over 600 feet. Unfortunately, Project Mohole failed to receive sufficient funding, and it was abandoned after eight years.
This next dig took place in a completely different part of the world…
Yet another attempt to reach Earth’s crust was in Russia and occurred on May 24, 1970 below the Pechengsky District of the Kola Peninsula. Initially aiming to reach 49,000 feet below Earth’s surface, the engineers dug a series of boreholes from a single principal cavity. Here, you can see just how deep the engineers tried to dig.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, America also made a new progress of their own…
Bertha Rogers Hole
In 1974, oil drillers in Washita County, Oklahoma discovered something interesting on the job: a 34,000 hole. They decided to name it the Bertha Rogers hole, and for the next five years, this hole would remain the deepest hole on the planet.
Believe it or not, Russia stole the record for deepest-drilled hole, a feat unimagined, next…
On June 6, 1979, one of the Kola boreholes known as SG-3, took over as the deepest recorded manhole. It reached an astonishing 39,000 feet deep. Because of this milestone, researchers halted work on the borehole for 12 months so that tourists could visit the fascinating site.
But the record-setting didn’t stop at the SG-3…
Setting a new milestone
The project resumed the following year, but a technical problem forced scientists to abandon it. Instead, they worked on digging a new hole from a depth of 23,000 feet. By 1989, the hole set a new record of 40,230 feet! This new achievement prompted researchers to believe the hole would eventually reach the target mark at 49,000 by 1993.
But they didn’t expect what would happen next…
As the drill approached closer to the Earth’s center, scientists ran into a surprising discovery. After digging 10,000 feet, temperatures inside the borehole shot up exponentially. By the time they hit near the target depth, the hole reached a startling temperature of 180 °C (356 °F)!
So, what did the scientists do when they ran into this heat wave?…
Kola Superdeep Borehole
Researchers concluded the rocks at these depths have a much lower density, and therefore, behave unpredictably with high temperatures. The team knew their equipment had little chance of surviving, so they abandoned their project in 1992 and named their work the Kola Superdeep Borehole.
But, that wasn’t the end of what they discovered…
As it turned out, the project was not completely futile. Before sealing the hole, the researchers discovered tiny marine plant fossils about 21,000 feet deep. They estimated the fossils were billions of years old.
Aside from tactile findings, the researchers also came to new scientific conclusions…
Throughout their time digging, the researchers concluded deeply embedded rocks were not, indeed, shifting from granite to basalt, like they previously believed. The rocks, they learned, shifted in different ways than they had previously imagined.
But, that wasn’t all…
Water between rocks
Throughout their digging, the engineers and researchers also discovered flowing water thousands of feet beneath the Earth and believed it was due to the way the rocks formed alongside each other. Shockingly, fossils, dirt, and rocks were not the only thing below the surface!
But, what else was there to all this digging?…
The Deepest Man-Made Point
If you’re wanting to visit the Kola Superdeep Borehole, you’re out of luck. Scientists have dubbed the site too dangerous to visit. Still today, this site marks the deepest manhole in world history. Unfortunately, science buffs will have to admire it in pictures, not in person.
Thankfully, though, researchers have taken on many other research projects to admire…
If you think the exploration on Earth’s ground ended with the deepest man-made hole, then you’re mistaken. One organization, the International Ocean Discovery Program, has set forth expeditions to study the seafloor in an attempt to learn more about what’s close to the center of the earth. Dr. Jon Copley is one notable spearhead of ocean research, and he currently serves as Associate Professor of Ocean Exploration & Public Engagement at the University of Southampton in the U.K.
Keep clicking to learn more about Dr. Copley’s approach to deep research…
The Antarctic Ocean
The program’s mission was to dive deeper under the South Pole waters than any other expedition in human history has done so previously. After two years of meticulous research, the team decided on Iceberg Alley as the best place to make their descent. If you’re wondering why the name, there’s a very apt reason for that…
Iceberg Alley serves as a channel to one of the Antarctic Peninsula’s northernmost points. It’s a stretch of sea surrounded by large chunks of shifting ice, with some enormously measuring about half a square mile. Thus, just getting the submarine into the right place was already a huge challenge!
As it turns out, ice wasn’t the only element they found on their expedition…
Beneath the surface of the sea, it’s hard to believe there would actually be snow, but it turns out there is. If you browse online, you’ll see multiple expeditions have been conducted in which sea snow was recognized. The substance, though not actually earthly snow, is material floating around that mimics the appearance of actual snow.
But, researchers have also found plenty of living things deep under the sea, too…
The Important Role of Krill
Another crucial food source discovered in the waters deep under the Antarctic was created by krill, a group of tiny sea creatures that live throughout our planet’s oceans. They create dirt that eventually falls to the ocean floor and helps other ocean species create better living environments.
Ready for another wild deep sea creature?…
The Death Star
Known as the Death Star, this animal is a relative of the common starfish. It can grow as many as 50 arms, topping the octopus by a wide margin. The skin on its arms is also covered with small pincers that snap shut when they come in contact with anything, making it yet another creepy-crawly of the deep sea.
As far as deep-sea creatures go, there’s plenty more deep divers have discovered. The ice dragonfish is one of those creatures and has a distinct body structure that allows it to survive in extremely cold conditions.
With the expedition resulting in a compelling success, Dr. Copley hopes it continues to finally shed light on the mysteries of the ocean. Just like with manholes, deep-sea exploration is a critical way to uncover some of the earth’s greatest mysteries and wonders.
Taking care of our planet
Moreover, beyond its scientific revelations, the research endeavors an even more profound impact for both direct and indirect learners of the project. Dr. Copley has been known to call this “exploration in its purest sense,” and he has also stated that everyone can feel included in keeping the planet taken care of if they all continue to explore it.