Scientists Attempt to Drill to Earth’s Mantle, Bring Back Souvenirs


An international team of scientists is aiming to go further into the Earth than ever before. COSMOS Magazine has the story of this colossal undertaking, which will cost over a billion dollars and optimistically take almost a decade. By reaching the mantle, the layer between the crust and iron core, researchers hope to discover clues about Earth’s evolution and the mechanics of plate tectonics. There are a couple problems with the plan, most of which revolve around the fact that it’s going to be hard as hell to drill almost 7 kilometers into the ground.

No one has ever reached the mantle, and the only clues we have from down there are fragments shot out of erupting volcanoes. As anyone who’s been shot out of a volcano can tell you, once you make it out, you’re never the same. Samples gathered from this planned drilling mission would be the first ever from the mantle that have not undergone chemical alterations from being encased in lava.

The Japanese have a ship with the capabilities to undertake this ordeal, but there is a problem: as with all drilling, it’s not the size of the boat but the motion of the ocean. Geochemistry professor Doug Teagle explains:

“We will need to drill a 6.5 km hole into…the ocean floor in roughly 4,000 m of water … [and] a ship that can be dynamically positioned to stay precisely above a drill hole for many months at a time.”

Once the hole is drilled, the team will have to deal with incredible pressure, heat soaring past 300 degrees Celsius, and the very real possibility that they will open a portal to hell and unleash Satan’s unholy minions into our unsuspecting world. The latter wasn’t mentioned in the recently published plan in Nature, but we’re pretty worried about it.

In 1961, American researchers attempted to reach the mantle but had to abandon efforts due to the skyrocketing costs. We’re going back because, according to marine geophysics professor Neville Exon, getting to that darn mantle “was the original reason ocean drilling began.” Those geochemists and geophysicists sure are a persistent bunch.

Journey to the mantle of the Earth by 2020 [COSMOS]
Journey to the mantle of the Earth [Nature]