Scientists Just Drilled the Deepest Hole at 26,200 FT Below the Ocean

The new operation blew the previous record-holder out of the water.
Chris Young

A team aboard the research vessel Kaimei, stationed off the coast of Japan, drilled a hole in the seabed of the Pacific Ocean deeper than any other seabed drilling operation in history, according to a statement from the team.

On May 14, the team abord the Kaimei lowered a 40-meter-long Giant Piston Corer (GPC) almost 26,200 feet (5 miles - 8,000 meters) below the ocean's surface.

The drill took approximately two hours and 40 minutes to reach the bottom of the Japan Trench, off northeast Japan, at which point it drilled a 37.74-meter (120-foot) sediment core from the ocean floor.

The mission for the record-breaking expedition — it drilled the deepest water site hole as well as the deepest sub-sea level sample — was to study the sediment of the area in order to better understand the ancient earthquake history of the region. Similar expeditions have previously drilled into glaciers, in order to study the effects of climate change.

The Kaimei research vessel's drill site was purposefully located very close to the epicenter of the magnitude-9.1 Tōhoku earthquake, which produced a devastating tsunami in 2011, leading to the Fukushima power plant disaster.

The world's deepest drilling sites, on land and sea

For almost 50 years, the ocean deep drilling record has been held by the research vessel Glomar Challenger, named after the Royal Navy's HMS Challenger.

The Glomar Challenger drilled under the seabed of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean in 1978. That expedition recovered a sediment core from approximately 4.3 miles (7,000 m) below sea level.

Impressively, the deepest-ever hole drilled on land goes deeper than the Kaimei research vessel's new record-breaking ocean hole.

The Kola Superdeep Borehole, sometimes referred to as the entrance to hell, was drilled by Russian scientists in the Kola Peninsula between 1970 and 1995, and was eventually abandoned with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It reached a maximum depth of 7.6 miles (12,200 m) below the Earth's surface, the deepest-ever hole drilled on land or sea.

According to their press statement, the Kaimei research vessel team, led out at sea by Captain Naoto Kimura, are now looking forward to seeing the results of the scientific analysis carried out on the sample retrieved from the Japan Trench.

The findings, alongside computer modeling from the likes of the world's fastest supercomputer, Japan's Fugaku, could help the country to be better prepared in the face of another potentially devastating earthquake in the future.

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