And Russia was all, "MOTHERLAND!"

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Do yah know what this is? Do yah? DO YAH? No. No, you don't. I'll give you a hint. It's Russian. A Russian HOLE. A really, really DEEP one.

Over forty years ago, researchers in the Soviet Union began an ambitious drilling project whose goal was to penetrate the Earth's upper crust and sample the warm, mysterious area where the crust and mantle intermingle– the Mohorovičić discontinuity, or "Moho." So deep is this area that the Russian scientists had to invent new ways of drilling, and some of their new methods proved quite inventive. But despite the valiant effort which spanned several decades, the Russians never reached their goal, and many of the Earth's secrets were left undiscovered. The work done by the Soviets did, however, provide a plethora of information about what lies just beneath the surface, and it continues to be scientifically useful today. The project is known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole.

... "Superdeep Borehole." What.

Today, the deepest hole ever created by humankind lies beneath the tower enclosing Kola's drill. A number of boreholes split from the central branch, but the deepest is designated "SG-3," a hole about nine inches wide which snakes over 12.262 kilometers (7.5 miles) into the Earth's crust. The drill spent twenty-four years chewing its way to that depth, until its progress was finally halted in 1994, about 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) short of its 15,000-meter goal.

It's deep.

Despite the scientists' efforts to combat the heat by refrigerating the drilling mud before pumping it down, at twelve kilometers the drill began to approach its maximum heat tolerance. At that depth researchers had estimated that they would encounter rocks at 100°C (212°F), but the actual temperature was about 180°C (356°F)– much higher than anticipated. At that level of heat and pressure, the rocks began to act more like a plastic than a solid, and the hole had a tendency to flow closed whenever the drill bit was pulled out for replacement. Forward progress became impossible without some technological breakthroughs and major renovations of the equipment on hand, so drilling stopped on the SG-3 branch. If the hole had reached the initial goal of 15,000 meters, temperatures would have reached a projected 300°C (572°F).

It's hot.

Kola was not the first nor the last attempt at drilling a superdeep borehole, but it has been the most successful so far. In 1957 the United States embarked on a similar project dubbed Project Mohole, but that attempt to drill through the ocean floor was cancelled due to lack of funding. Today, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program seeks to penetrate the much thinner crust of the ocean floor to probe the Earth's lower crust.

The Kola Superdeep Borehole is still a scientifically useful site, and research there is ongoing. The huge repository of core samples are housed at Zapolyarniy, about 10 kilometers south of the borehole. Today the site is managed by the State Scientific Enterprise on Superdeep Drilling and Complex Investigations in the Earth's Interior as the Deep Geolaboratory.

And America couldn't reproduce it. Russia, you are now in my Top 8 again.

[Found on Damn Interesting]

- z

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