Scientists Are Getting Ready to Drill Into Earth’s Mantle

A scientific expedition is underway in the southwest Indian Ocean, where scientists are hoping that for the first time, they can drill all the way to the Earth’s mantle. Finding the “center of the earth” has been the stuff of science fiction for years. However, the special location of the drill site might transform this dream into reality.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is hoping that such things will be made possible by a feature known as the Mohorovicic Discontinuity – or Moho for short. The Moho is the boundary between the crust and mantle and it tends to vary in depth in different areas of the world. However, in the particular area of the IODP drill, the Moho might be accessible.

Scientists plan on bringing samples from Earth’s depths up for examination. They are hoping this gives them information on how the ocean’s crust is formed and helps unlock mysteries dating back to Earth’s formation. They will also be looking for any evidence of ancient microorganisms and study seafloor magnetic anomalies.

Jay Miller, one of the expedition leaders told reporters that, “Each time we drill a hole, we learn that Earth’s structure is more complex. Our understanding of how the Earth evolved is changing accordingly.”

For scientists who have been attempting to achieve this goal, it’s an exciting time. However reactions from various blogs and websites are mixed, with some saying the idea is downright dangerous.

It’s an understandable reaction considering the science fiction movies and books we’ve read. The idea that microorganisms in ancient rocks could bring an ancient virus to our modern world. Or perhaps drilling through such a deep layer could spark volcanic eruptions or mega earthquakes around the planet.

While none of this has any basis in science, it hasn’t stopped the fear mongering. One article, published by Armageddon Online as well as the Express UK has warned that “geologists” are worried about this procedure. Although it never names those geologists, rather makes vague references to earthquakes in the past, it does later give two quotes from men who seem to understand the situation well.

A quick Google search of those men and their quotes, however, revealed that they were taken from the comment section of a Livescience article about the project. Their concerns seem to stem from recent earthquakes attributed to fracking. However it should be noted how incredibly different fracking is from drilling a small hole.

In fracking a high pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals are delivered to rocks under the earth so that they release gas. This expedition will not be shooting a mix of anything into the Earth’s mantle. Rather it concerns drilling a small hole and bringing up a few samples. Two wildly different things.

Another worry is the release pressure could set off a volcanic eruption, or start a whole new underwater volcano. Again, this is science fiction. According to The Explainer at Slate, “Even if engineers were to drill directly into a reservoir of molten magma, a volcanic eruption would be extremely unlikely. For one thing, drill holes are too narrow to transmit the explosive force of a volcanic eruption. (It’s the equivalent of piercing a champagne cork with a pin rather than removing the entire cork at once.)”

For those interested in following the expedition they can see weekly and sometimes daily updates here at their website. The first leg of the project is expected to continue into late January.

Photo Credit: OPD/Wikimedia

94 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Ricky T.
Ricky T1 years ago

Didn't a Russian ship try the same a few decades ago? I remember from a geography lesson at school...

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Anna S.
Anna S1 years ago

STOP!!!!!

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Peggy Binnion
Peggy B1 years ago

Is it worth the possible repercussions?

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Fi T.
Past Member 1 years ago

For good?

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Jane R.
Jane R1 years ago

I want to add these thoughts: We know that sticking a needle into a balloon will destroy it (I know the earth is not like a balloon), that sticking an unsterilized needle into a vein will cause much harm to your body, that sticking a nail into a car tire or water hose, no matter how small, will damage it, that poking a hole into a tomato or other vegetable while it is growing will make it un-edible due to bacteria, that sticking a needle into your eye will cause vision problems and much more. What we don't know is what harm this drilling a hole into the core of the earth is what it will do to the planet. After the fact is done it's too late to go back and say it was a mistake to do it!! Leave the earth alone!

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Jane R.
Jane R1 years ago

I'm against this. What good will come from it? It could harm the planet. They better think twice or more before doing this. I don't think what they find will benefit anyone so why chance the fact that it could harm the planet?

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey1 years ago

Interesting

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Wait and see.

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Patricia Harris
John Taylor1 years ago

RESPECT THE PLANET, DON'T DESTROY IT!!!!!!!!!!!!






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