Scientists in Japan have announced an audacious plan to drill through the ocean floor and into the Earth’s mantle for the first time.
It’s thought that the molten interior could hold clues to predicting earthquakes and even reveal how the Earth formed more than 4 billion years ago.
In September, staff at Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) will search for possible drilling sites off the coast of Hawaii.
The team told a Japanese newspaper it could begin the boring process as soon as the early 2020s, using Japan’s deep-sea drilling vessel, Chikyu.
Two other sites, one off the coast of Costa Rico and another off the coast of Mexico, are also under consideration, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
The scientists shortlisted underwater sites because oceanic crust is significantly shallower than its continental counterpart.
The project has been part funded by the Japanese government in a bid to refine earthquake prediction, CNN reported.
Natsue Abe, a researcher from JAMSTEC, told the US broadcaster: “In Japan we have some volcanoes, earthquakes and such kind of natural hazards. People (want to create) some monitoring or analysis equipment but we don’t know ... what kind of factor to use.
“So we need to know the natural system more clearly or precisely ... we have to observe the Earth more precisely.”
The drill would be dropped through 2.5 miles of water before hitting the ocean floor and boring through 3.8 miles of the planet’s crust to the mantle.
The mantle makes up more than 80% of Earth’s mass and is one of the final frontiers for scientific inquiry.