Scientists To Drill Through The Earth’s Crust For The First Time

The project will examine rock samples for signs of life deep inside the Earth

Geologists are preparing to drill almost 5 kilometres under the Indian Ocean in a bid to go beyond Earth’s crust and into the mantle for the very first time.

The team from Cardiff University hope to bring back the first samples of mantle, the rock that lie between the Earth’s crust and core.

These samples will allow scientists to look for signs of life deep inside the Earth and confirm what materials make up our planet’s crust.

Diagram of the earths crust

"In total, we think it will take three expeditions," Cardiff University’s Professor Chris Macleod told BBC News.

"The science is approved, and we have funding for this initial two-month investigation. But we will need to come back, and we may not complete the task until the 2020s."

The project, called The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), also gives scientists the chance to examine the Moho boundary, the area at the edge of the crust where the seismic waves of earthquakes suddenly change speed.

"The Moho is pretty uniform everywhere across the ocean basins, and because of that everyone has assumed that the ocean crust is very uniform and therefore, by inference, very simple," says Professor MacLeod.

"But if we're right here, it changes the game completely. If the Moho seismic boundary is actually an alteration boundary from water penetration into the mantle, it means we know a lot less about the ocean crust than we did."

Drilling into an area at the very heart of the seismic activity that triggers natural disasters has prompted concerns the project could trigger an earthquake

If an under-sea earthquake is large enough, it can cause a giant tsunami like the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami that decimated south-east Asia.

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