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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Can You Dig It? Japan Drilling For Mantle

Baseball pundits all know that Mickey Mantle could drill it...  

Hopefully you have all heard about Japan’s idea to drill to the Earth’s mantle, because we all read the news.

I knew about this a few minutes after it was initially reported and had all these great plans to do a report on it…. but then I forgot.

So, rather than just rehash the news, let me put my own spin on Japan’s Journey to the center of the Earth.

First things first… the mantle is NOT the center o the Earth.

It is, however very deep down in our planet and is farther than anyone has ever dug before.

Take a look at the image below.

The mantle is a layer that site between the crust where we live, and the outer core, a liquid part of the planet that surrounds a solid inner core.

So… the mantle surrounds the planetary core… of any and every terrestrial planet… so that means it does not exist in gaseous planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune. These four gas  “planets’ are actually four brown dwarf stars that lacked enough fuel to combust.

You know that movie 2001: Space Odyssey? The concept behind it is that the monolith(s) are actually fuel cells and when they all travel to Jupiter - something wonderful is going to happen - and the “planet” combusts into a second star.

Apparently single star systems like our own are a rarity in the universe, with most being binary and trinary star systems. I like astronomy. 

Anyhow, planetary bodies in our solar system that have a mantle (terrestrial bodies) are: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, Luna (our moon), Io and Europa (two of Jupiter’s moons) and Vesta (an asteroid)—these all have a mantle made of silicate rock.

It is suspected, but not proven that Ganymede and Callisto (moons of Jupiter), Titan and Triton (moons of Saturn) have a mantle made of ice (frozen gases) or some other type of volatile substance.  IN this case, volatile implies ice with a melting point above or around 100Kelvin (-173.15C / 279.67F).

Got it?

Basically, the JAMSTEC (Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology) say they want to drill through Earth’s crust to the mantle - something man has never done.

While some people believe this will lead to some sort of hollow Earth, or Middle Earth, others fear that drilling that deep is like lancing a pus-filled boil that will cause the Earth to vomit up a near-never-ending flow of hot lava.

How will Japan dig the hole?

It’s going to use a boat.

The Chikyū (地球; ちきゅう), which means “Earth” in English is a Japanese scientific drilling ship built for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, and is designed to ultimately drill seven kilometers beneath the seabed, where the Earth's crust is much thinner, and into the Earth's mantle.

Of course, the Russians have actually dug a deeper hole. I have no idea why I said “of course”.

The Kola Superdeep Borehole was drilled on land, reaching a depth of 12.289 kilometers (7.5 miles). Drilling began on May 24, 1970, with the final depth achieved in 1989.

The Russian hole, by the way, is 23-centimeters (9-inches) in diameter… so there’s no chance of anyone falling down what is the deepest artificial point on/in Earth.

Apparently this is the Kola Superdeep Borehole - sealed as of 2006. You'd think it would have some sort of cool marker sign... or at least be kept clean of debris. Oh, those Russians.

Chikyū is operated by the Centre for Deep Earth Research (CDEX), and is a a subdivision of JAMSTEC.

The whole program is actually called the Chikyū Hakken (地球発見 ) or ‘Earth Discovery’.

The Chikyū ship is 210 meters long, 38 meters in width, 16.2 meters high, and has an approximate gross tonnage of about 57,000 tons, and is cap[able of reaching a maximum cruising speed of 12 knots.

The amidships derrick is 121 m above sea level, and the top drive has a lifting capacity of 1,000 tons. Its complement of 150 crew are divided between 100 operators and 50 science personnel, with at sea crew changes handled by helicopter transfer. 

You might think it really stupid to try and drill a hole while aboard a ship that will rock with the ocean’s waves… but the Chikyū will use a GPS in combination with six adjustable computer-controlled azimuth thrusters that will allow it to maintain stability.

Did you know that on March 11, 2011 the Chikyū was greatly affected by the tsunami caused by the 9.0 Magnitude earthquake that hit that day?

Moored 300 meters of the coast of Hachinohe, Aomori-ken—with local preschool students aboard for a visit—the tsunami caused the Chikyū to rip loose from its moorings and smash into a nearby pier.

A 1.5 meter hole was made in the bottom, and one of the six stabilizers badly damaged… but at least no one was hurt badly. The school kids were rescued a day later. 

The Chikyū was repaired and back in service by June of 2011. 

Okay… does anyone else find that interesting? The science vessel was repaired… with money…. in just three short months… when people who were greatly affected by the tsunami and subsequent near nuclear meltdown(s) are still trying to repair their lives… I’m just sayin’, is all… and I’m a guy who is all rah-rah-science.

The latest venture to reach the Earth’s mantle is to drill 2.5 miles below the ocean’s surface and then 3.7 miles through the Earth’s crust and then to break on through to the side to grab samples from within the mantle.

While a preliminary study is set to begin in September of 2017 off the coast of Hawaii, they are still trying to determine the best spot to drill the real hole - either near Costa Rica or off Mexico.

Hopefully we and the scientists will still be around to see the Chikyū break “ground” sometime in 2030… yes… 13 years from now.

Mission goals include:
  • ways to predict earthquakes;
  • understanding the boundary between the crust and mantle;
  • studying continental drift;
  • discovering new life.
For now, the JAMSTEC will have 13 years to determine if new technologies will be need to proceed, as well as the same amount of time to create those new technologies.

Somewhere dropping pennies down the Kola Superdeep Borehole,
Andrew Joseph
PS: If you don't know why I have that image placed at the very top of this article, well... that's Reggie Mantle of Riverdale and Archie fame.

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