Researchers drill deepest hole under the sea

Expedition ahead of Japan reaches new depth record with more than 2, 111 meters

Drill ship Chikyu in the harbor © IODP
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An international team of researchers has drilled deeper into the ocean off Japan than ever before: more than 2, 111 meters, they penetrated below the seabed, setting a new record. This was made possible by a new drillship, Chikyu, with which scientists are currently traveling off the Shimokita Peninsula of Japan as part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). "It opened a window into a new era of scientific drilling, " said Fumio Inagaki of the Japanese Agency for Meres Research and Technology (JAMSTEC), one of the two expedition leaders. With this research ship you can penetrate into depths that no one has explored before.

Drillship Chikyu can drill down to depths of 10, 000 meters under the seabed and bring rock from these areas to the surface. The researchers of the IODP hoped that new insights, especially in the geology of the plate boundaries, but also the mantle and the so-called deep biosphere. As such, scientists refer to the world of organisms that until now has only been explored in part, living in the rock of the seafloor and other areas of the earth's crust. "The samples from such depths are valuable, and I'm confident they'll help us better understand life and the earth, " says Inagaki.

Living world explored in deep coal formations

The objective of the expedition, which started in July 2012 and will continue for another three weeks, is to investigate old, approximately 2, 200 meter deep coal seams under the sea off Japan. Among other things, the results should clarify which microbes are active in these deposits and which factors contributed to the production of coal as well as natural gas. Initial samples have already been examined in the laboratory on board.

"I am very pleased with the high quality of the core samples, which show only minimal disturbances", explains Kai-Uwe Hinrichs from the University of Bremen, the second leader of the expedition. That was enormously important for the research goals. In the next few weeks, the researchers want to push further into the depths and bring samples from the coal formations to the surface. These are then analyzed both on board and later in laboratories on land.

(IODP, 10.09.2012 - NPO) Display