Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education Science

Hole Drilled to Bottom of Earth's Crust 422

Posted by Zonk
from the vernsian dept.
AtariAmarok writes "A new article is up on LiveScience about a hole drilled into the Earth's crust to explore the layers of our planet's substrate. The hole gets closer to the mantle than any other efforts that have gone before. The hole might reach the "Moho" (division between Earth's brittle outer crust and the hotter, softer mantle) within a few years." From the article: "The depth of the Moho varies. This latest effort, which drilled 4,644 feet (1,416 meters) below the ocean seafloor, appears to have been 1,000 feet off to the side of where it needed to be to pierce the Moho, according to one reading of seismic data used to map the crust's varying thickness."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hole Drilled to Bottom of Earth's Crust

Comments Filter:
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Sunday April 10, 2005 @02:58PM (#12194890)

    Good day, gentlemen...as you are no doubt aware, I have drilled a gigangtic hole straight through the Earth's crust. This hole will allow me to usher in a glorious new era of total world domination; for this reason, I have dubbed this latest caper "Operation Glory-Hole".

    You see, gentleman, the bottom of this hole is only a scant 1000 feet away from the firey liquid mantle of the Earth itself...when I detonate a small nuclear device at the bottom of this hole, Operation Glory-Hole will create a gigantic super-volcano, radically altering the Earth's climate and laying waste to civilization...that is, unless you pay me...
    ONE HUNDRED MILLION BILLION JILLION DOLLARS!!!

    /dramaticmusic

    Gentleman, you have my demands. Peace out.

    • Would it work? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Chemisor (97276) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:04PM (#12194935)
      > bottom of this hole is only a scant 1000 feet
      > away from the firey liquid mantle of the Earth
      > itself...when I detonate a small nuclear device
      > at the bottom of this hole, Operation Glory-Hole
      > will create a gigantic super-volcano

      Would any geologists care to comment whether it is possible to create an artificial island this way?
      • Re:Would it work? (Score:4, Informative)

        by dalutong (260603) <djtansey @ g m ail.com> on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:21PM (#12195076)
        well -- i don't know if that would really be "artificial," then, since that is how many islands are formed, especially along convergent plate boundries. it is exactly as happens it happens with "hot spots." the issue would be making the hole large enough and keeping the hole open, since it would fill up pretty quickly and just make a little mountain under the sea.
      • Re:Would it work? (Score:5, Informative)

        by osmic234 (807261) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:15PM (#12195419)
        Unlikely. The Mohorovicic (Moho) discontinuity can be described in a few different ways - either where seismic veolocities have a marked discontinuity, or where a noticable chemical/mineralogical change occurs (can't remember what it is, I'm a geophysicist, not a geologist). What it's not is a boundary between a nice solid crust floating on top of "firey liquid mantle". In fact more accurate terms are lithosphere and asthenosphere, rather than crust and mantle, which basically differentiate between rigid, colder material, and warmer, more ductile rock. The top of the mantle is still solid, but becomes increasingly ductile with depth. Various minerals reach melting point as you go down towards the Core-Mantle Boundary, but basically I think you have to get to the outer core before it's all liquid (mostly iron). In terms of energies, the largest nuclear bomb ever detonated was about 55-60 megatonnes (depending on who you ask), in 1961 by the USSR. The energy released by the great 1960 Chilean earthquake (the largest recorded in the last 100 years) was equivalent approximately to a 2000 Mt bomb. So, setting off a nuke at the moho might temporarily create a small spherical cavity which would probably collapse in on itself, and maybe create some melt, but it's doubtful it would come gushing to the surface as a raging plume of "liquid hot magma". Besides, there have been plenty of underground nuclear tests, and none of those have resulted in a humungous volcano. As yet. The USGS site at http://www.usgs.gov/ [usgs.gov] is probably a good place to find out more.
        • Re:Would it work? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Kymermosst (33885) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @08:32PM (#12196621) Journal
          IANQAG (I am not quite a geologist), but I am just finishing up my minor in Geology, and considering it as a second major.

          Unlikely. The Mohorovicic (Moho) discontinuity can be described in a few different ways - either where seismic veolocities have a marked discontinuity, or where a noticable chemical/mineralogical change occurs (can't remember what it is, I'm a geophysicist, not a geologist).

          Seismic discontinuity.

          Anyway, regarding the grandparent... in theory, the only thing keeping the mantle from melting is pressure (phase diagrams are easy to find). When you drill down, if you don't maintain pressure in the well, (again, in theory) you might be able to relieve the pressure on mantle rock and cause it to melt. Of course, you'd need a really big hole for the resulting magma to come up before it plugs itself like a puncture wound.

          Making an artificial volcano is a highly unlikely thing to accomplish, either on accident or on purpose.

          I've read one theory about the yellowstone hotspot that is related to this. David Alt and Donald Hyndman believe (found in _Roadside Geology of Idaho_) that a meteorite struck the pacific northwest and the impact crater relieved pressure on the mantle, allowing the magma to well up. This, of course, relieved pressure below and caused further upwelling. Each eruption of what is now the Yellowstone hot spot keeps the cycle going, they claim.

          I don't think it's a very probable explanation, and it doesn't seem to be easily verifiable or falsifiable, since the original evidence would have been destroyed by the volcanic eruptions.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:04PM (#12194936)
      Dr. Evil is stealing my Moho baby!
    • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:07PM (#12194958)
      "Mr President, Dr. Evil is on the line"

      Uhhh. Hi Dick. How ya doin'?'

    • Powers: "Someone stole my moho!"
    • when I detonate a small nuclear device at the bottom of this hole, Operation Glory-Hole will create a gigantic super-volcano

      Duh, no it won't. It will make the Earth's core start to spin faster. Didn't you watch that documentery about the Earth's core?
    • by MutantHamster (816782) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:48PM (#12195595) Homepage
      Sure, everyone's all excited about drilling a hole now, but as soon as they accidentally drill into the Earth's hollow interior [wikipedia.org] and drain the entire ocean, they'll be nothing but excuses.
    • Sounds from Hell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alien54 (180860) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @05:14PM (#12195732) Journal
      This reminds me of the urban legend that makes the rounds about scientists drilling into the earth being startled by the sounds of hell emerging from the pipe [nowsthetime.org]. Complete with escaping bat or demon emerging from the pipe.

      Click here for info on how this story really came about [truthorfiction.com].

      Someone finally did the leg work to track the story down. On the other hand, I would like to find the source of the Audio Clip.

      • Re:Sounds from Hell (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NitsujTPU (19263)
        It was covered by Coast to Coast AM, I believe. If you search their site, I believe that they have a CD of audio from the hole.

        If it's the same hole. The sounds were supposedly from "hell".
  • by IainMH (176964) * on Sunday April 10, 2005 @02:59PM (#12194900)

    Check this baby out, dug me a hole!

    --Joey Tribbiani
  • Yay! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:00PM (#12194903)
    I for one, welcome our moleman overlords.
  • by Steven Edwards (677151) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:01PM (#12194908)
    Is the link at the bottom which talks about the idea of using a nuke to drop a probe to the earths core.

  • im unsure about the wisdom of opening up a hole to the mantle.
    correct me if im wrong but isnt the mantle under some pressure, and opening a hole will relieve that pressure and cause a large amount of it to flow out?
    • You'd probably kill the people/machinery going down there, if the mantle is as overpressured as you say. But there wouldn't be a massive eruption, the seawater would quickly cool the mantle into a new part of the crust, eliminating the hole.

      However, its more than likely it won't flow out explosively.
    • Re:is it wise? (Score:5, Informative)

      by stratjakt (596332) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:03PM (#12194931) Journal
      That's happening all the time on the sea floor, where the plates are slowly separating.

      A bunch of lava will squish out, immediatly cool, and plug the hole, and they'll have to start all over again.

      Kind of like Cool Hand Luke.
    • by viper432 (589797)
      Like a volcano?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:05PM (#12194947)
      Yes, this is exactly what will happen. Just think of it like pricking a hole in a balloon, next thing you know we are 'ppttthhhhhhhhhh' on our way to Jupiter.
      • by smithmc (451373) *

        Yes, this is exactly what will happen. Just think of it like pricking a hole in a balloon, next thing you know we are 'ppttthhhhhhhhhh' on our way to Jupiter.

        That's fine, as long as we don't try to land on Europa.

    • by Daedalus_ (38808)
      Yeah, we're screwed now.

      Start working on your lava-boats everyone....
      • Yeah, we're screwed now. Start working on your lava-boats everyone....

        People? Boats? Endless seas of lava? Oh, great. If one person in Hollywood reads that, we're in trouble.

        "Now in theaters: The sequel to smash hit Waterworld: Fireworld!"

    • Well considering that this is at the bottom of the ocean, the incoming pressure on the hole would be substantial.

      Also I think the size of this hole compared to the total surface area of the earth would make such a concern relatively insignificant.
    • Hwo do you think we got Hawaii?

      I am just hoping they drill where the white beaches will be nice a warm, in few million years.
    • Re:is it wise? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Planesdragon (210349) <slashdot&castlesteelstone,us> on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:09PM (#12194974) Homepage Journal
      and opening a hole will relieve that pressure and cause a large amount of it to flow out?

      Why, yes, that can happen. Mind you, "large" is only on the human scale, and this is hardly an unusual circumstance.

      What is essetnially (but not actually) mantle-juice flows out onto the crust on a somewhat irregular basis. I'm sure you've heard of it, it's quite specatcular when molten rock et al flow out.

      As for a "large ammount" -- us drilling into the mantle is like us sticking a very large straw into the ocean. Sure, the water down at the bottom is under pressure, and it will shoot up the straw if we let it. But the ocean certainly isn't going anywhere.
      • > us drilling into the mantle is like us sticking a
        > very large straw into the ocean.

        More like a pipette or a hypodermic needle.
      • Re:is it wise? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@xoxFREEBSDy.net minus bsd> on Sunday April 10, 2005 @07:43PM (#12196419) Homepage Journal
        Huh? Certainly you don't think that if you stick a straw down to the bottom of the ocean, that water will flow UP it, higher than the surface of the water up above...do you?


        If you do, then you should review some basic physics concepts. The pressure differential that exists between the water on top of the ocean and at the bottom would also exist between the bottom of the pipe and the top. So you would have exactly the same level of water inside your straw, as you would outside. Just like in a bottle of Coke or something. Putting one end of the straw at the bottom of the bottle doesn't cause the soda to come shooting out the other end towards your face (although it would be funny if it did, wouldn't it?).


        The only exception is if you were to lower the 'straw' down while filled with air (by keeping the top closed and equalizing the pressure against the water using compressed air) and then when you got down to the desired depth, releasing the cap on top -- this would cause water to rush in the bottom to equalize the fluid levels between the inside and outside of the pipe. If the differential is big enough it may in fact be moving quickly enough to 'overshoot' the water level of the ocean and come out the top of the pipe, but this is temporary only -- the steady state solution is with both fluid levels equal.


        If you don't believe me, go get a clear straw and a glass of water and come back when you've tried it.

    • Re:is it wise? (Score:3, Informative)

      by GeoGreg (631708)
      The mantle is under pressure because of the rock piled on top of it. It is not, as is sometimes believed, molten. And it won't goosh out like champagne when the cork is popped. Volcanoes do sometimes behave this way, but that's because they are isolated pockets of molten, gas-infused rock. When the confining pressure is removed, they do in fact goosh out lava like champagne. But that's a very different story.
  • How many... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So how many turns does it take to get to the center of the Earth? *crunch*
  • by itomato (91092) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:02PM (#12194919)
    There's no tampon made than could contain the leak that would create.

    Bad Scientists! Bad!
  • by Rob Simpson (533360) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:03PM (#12194922)
    +6 minerals
    +6 energy

    WARNING: Significant negative ecological impact

  • Great (Score:3, Funny)

    by elid (672471) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dopi.ile)> on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:03PM (#12194927)
    Dante would be proud
  • China (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rylz (868268) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:04PM (#12194934) Journal
    Pfft. I nearly made it from my sandbox to China with nothing but buckets back in my preschool days!
  • by CrackedButter (646746) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:04PM (#12194939) Homepage Journal
    ...it says "Bruce Willis woz here".
  • by Pinkoir (666130) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:07PM (#12194965)
    ...this Dr. Evil hole is the greatest threat that mad-science presents to us.

    What happens if when they finally penetrate the crust the whole planet pops like a balloon?

    LIKE A BALLOON!!

    Think of all that crazy magma spewing out all over the place and our beloved globe zooming randomly all over the solar system before finally falling flacid and empty to the floor somewhere near Mars.

    When will these insane "geologists" learn not to poke holes in our Mother Earth.

    -Pinkoir
  • Beware! Soon we'll drill down into the lair of the evil Dero (i.e., "Detrimental Robots"), who have been beaming their alien mind control rays at humanity throughout recorded history! Richard Shaver and Ray Palmer have revealed all! [jermainerogers.com] Stop while there's still time!

  • by VivianC (206472) <internet_updateNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:09PM (#12194978) Homepage Journal
    Didn't the Doctor already save us fom this madness back in the 1970's? Doesn't anyone remember what a disaster [amazon.com] it was?
    • Yup. He saved us, but failed to save the unfortunates on the parallel Earth...

      Actually, thinking back, didn't Inferno supposed to have taken place in around our current time period?

  • by geomon (78680) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:09PM (#12194979) Homepage Journal
    EOS [eos-magazine.com] covered this recent work just recently. The problem with offset drilling is that it does not provide the same informatio as a continuous core. These cores are obtained from 'windows' in previous flows and there is a problem with correlation between boreholes when horizons are not sampled widely. This complicates the historical interpreation and genesis of the oceanic crust.

    The demand for advanced drilling technology is one problem with the current Moho sampling efforts. Exploration drilling of the kind used for oil production is not well suited for the work that the ODP [columbia.edu] is engaged in. Bit designs for the lithostatic loads that these dense rocks develop at depth require a different approach than those used to drill continental sediments buried at depth beneath the ocean.
    • by ahfoo (223186) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:18PM (#12195432) Journal
      Well here seems to be someone who knows a bit about geology and drilling in particular so let me pose a question and see if you might have the time to reply.
      If these guys can drill a hole this deep in a mere three weeks and nearly hit the Earth's mantle, doesn't it seem that it should be possible to directly harness the abundant heat energy in these holes? I mean if you can make one in a few weeks it would seem you could make dozens, if not hundreds, in a year. There's got to be enormous heat if you're a thusand feet from the upper mantle and you're right next to vast reserves of cool water as well. This seems the ideal environment for a heat cycle engine.
      While not identical, the situation seems somewhat similar to the question of why we don't harness the heat energy of volcanoes. The answer I've always gotten is that it's too difficult to control a volcano.
      Certainly that's reasonable in the case of a volcano on land like Mt. Saint Hellens, but what about these mid-oceanic ridges just like where JOIDES is drilling here. In this case, it seems you can create a sort of controlled volcano. In fact, that seems to be what they're describing. Doesn't this seems like a fairly accessible source of thermal energy?
      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @07:53PM (#12196468) Journal
        You don't need to drill that far down to get water to turn to steam. Drill two deep holes into common granite, seperated by say 100 meters. Drop in some explosives to crack the granite between the holes at the bottom. Pump cold water down one hole and steam will come out of the other. Granite heats up because it is mildly radioactive and a single drill site can stay hot for ~50yrs. I saw this investigated on Australin TV by the CSRIO about 15 years ago but have no idea why it was not developed further.
      • If these guys can drill a hole this deep in a mere three weeks and nearly hit the Earth's mantle, doesn't it seem that it should be possible to directly harness the abundant heat energy in these holes?

        So, you drill a hole, put some pipes to bring water there and up. Bringing the heat up will obviously cool the rock that touches your pipe, but as the rock cools, your power production drops. You can only produce energy sustainably if you limit the rate to such that the heat transfer from the rest of the c

  • by mmThe1 (213136) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:16PM (#12195040) Homepage
    Start drilling from the other side NOW...

    Would be fun to enjoy the world's largest magnetic seasaw.
  • by Serious Simon (701084) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:18PM (#12195053)
    No need to drill holes, there are several places on the earth's crust where the Moho is spilling right out...
  • "Our incredibly expensive uber-drill has pierced through to the earth's mantle! Now let's get it home before the magma damages.. oh crap.."
  • Wait a minute... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darkitecture (627408) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:20PM (#12195066)

    Wait a minute...

    Are you trying to tell me that this whole damn time, we've never broken through the earth's crust and seen the mantle for ourselves? We can send something 8.7 billion miles away [wikipedia.org] but we can't drill two miles down? Doesn't this strike people as a bit odd or disconcerting?

    Personally I'd like to learn just as much about the earth under my feet as the stars above my head.

    I'd like to see this get more funding and see us reach the mantle in the next few weeks instead of waiting for some time in the "coming years."

  • by Chubby_C (874060) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:21PM (#12195077)
    Don't forget the hole's only natural enemy is the pile
  • by drphil (320469) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @03:36PM (#12195186)
    Damn near killed us all as I remember it. [tvguide.com]
  • Big fat hairy deal.

    A small mining / exploration company in British Columbia, Canada recently drilled a full kilometer deeper (~2600m) trying to find a new extension to the old Sullivan mine, a base metal mine that operated for ~100 years. ... And at that depth, they hit the target they were looking for!

    They weren't drilling into ocean crust, so the moho is much deeper, but they had not much trouble getting to the depth they were at.

    It's not as hard to do as its made out to be.
  • by failedlogic (627314) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:36PM (#12195524)
    How long before Wal-Mart and/or IKEA uses drilling holes through the Earth to reduce supply-chain management costs. I envision, there could be a hole going from China to California and/or Seattle.

    How much heat can those RFID tags resist anyways??!
  • by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:39PM (#12195540)
    I'm not sure if I imagined this or actually read about it.

    A 20,000 foot hole was supposed to have been dug near where I live during WW II in a desperate effort to find oil. There is oil and gas around here, and there has been some exploration in the last ten years Sable Island to the south and Hibernia to the East (apparently a bullseye for US rocket debris [www.cbc.ca]!).

    Here is the area:
    Hillsborough Bay [google.com] map. Near Govenor's Island (switch to map from Satellite image to see names.)

  • Hollywood (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @04:57PM (#12195650)
    Once again, the movie studios have already made a prediction about projects of this nature. The movie "Crack in the World" was released in 1965 and used then state of the art special effects to demonstrate what would happen if the Earth's core were penetrated.

    Of course, like most Hollywood productions the science behind the script was malarkey. But it was still a pretty good movie for its' time.
  • by Easy2RememberNick (179395) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @06:56PM (#12196202)
    "Moho" (division between Earth's brittle outer crust and the hotter, softer mantle)

    Not to be confused with Soho, NY where the bitchy upper crust and the hot artsy type meet.
  • by kfstark (50638) on Sunday April 10, 2005 @11:55PM (#12197664) Homepage
    3.2 km drilling for seismic research. [earthscope.org]

    They have finished phase one at 10,000 ft.

    They have been posting news regularly from phase 1 [icdp-online.de]

    --keith
  • by Deflatamouse! (132424) on Monday April 11, 2005 @02:07AM (#12198149) Homepage Journal
    Better watch out! Their experiments might stop the Earth's spin and we'll lose our magnetic fields!!!

Are we running light with overbyte?

Working...