Why Did They Close The World’s Deepest Hole Permanently After Making A Shocking Find?

By: Kate Row | Published: Aug 03, 2023

It’s a rarity to hear about scientists that are forced to abruptly end an investigation. Explorations are extremely common, but what about scientists calling it quits? That’s something that doesn’t happen often. On a secluded cape in Northwestern Russia, this group of scientists was brought on board for years to comb through more than 4o-thousand feet to the Earth’s core.

Humankind had never ventured to such extreme dephs ever before. So, when a surprising situation came to the forefront, scientists abandoned their project. What could have possibly been the reason?

What Really Exists Beneath Us?

It’s an inevitable fascination to wonder what’s underneath the crust of the Earth. Also, remember when that synthetic satellite was launched into space in the late 1950s? There’s been a great fascination to gaze up at the stars and ponder what mysteries lie within the galaxies and beyond.


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International entities and individual space corporations have endured through their efforts of focusing solely on the cosmos. Because of this, mankind’s knowledge of the cosmos seems to be ever-expansive. Yet, we ask ourselves if we are missing out on something else that exists aside from our world, as we gaze up to the skies in total awe.


Is What Exists Below Or Above Us More Fascinating?

It wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to find that certain people claim our knowledge and information about space surpass our understanding of what exists beneath the surface of the Earth.


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The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War is a historical event that most people know about. However, not many people have much awareness of the perplexing struggle to comprehend the planet that lives underground. Much less conquer it.

The Race To The Unknown Between Russia And The United States

Competing science experts in the mid-1900s from the United States and Russia began to craft complex experiments. The primary goal of these scientists was to puncture the Earth’s crust.


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Stretching out as far as thirty miles into the core of Earth lies a thick shell. It’s this shell that creates a path to the mantle, the magnificent part of Earth’s interior that accounts for 40 percent of its magnitude.

Did The United States Take The Lead? Or Did Russia Succeed?

In 1958, the U.S. got ahead with the Mohole Project, a mission that took place near Central America, near Mexico. To a distance of over 150 meters, the experts on this mission were tasked with barreling through the floor of the Pacific Ocean.


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Less than a decade later, they were forced to halt and cease working on the project because their budget was cut. Unfortunately, U.S. scientists couldn’t see their dream of reaching the core layer of the Earth through.

For The Swift Of Heart, This Is Not Your Kind Of Race

Did the Russians reach the mantle since the U.S. team wasn’t able to? Could the Russians beat them at their own game and dig their way to the mantle?

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Beneath the Pechengsky District resided a tiny population, and it’s where a crew of expert scientists began boring into the Earth in May of 1970. Their mission was clear: they needed to drill into the ground as deep as they were physically able. The Soviets had the plan to drill to a depth of under 50 thousand feet beneath the Earth’s crust.


Unknowingly, The Earth Rejoins The Earth Core Race!

To start the process, a sequel of boreholes was dug by excavators. Using specialized devices, these boreholes branched off from along the primary crater.

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Not abandoning hope just yet, the Americans continued forging ahead with their precious quest to the center of the Earth. Coming in hot, the Lone Star Producing Company got involved — their efforts were crucial in Oklahoma’s Washita County area because of an oil prospect.


Is It Possible To Win A Race You Weren't Competing In?

In 1974, the company discovered what they called the “Bertha Rogers Hole.” This hole was a remarkable man-made wonder that stretches about 9.5 km below the surface of the Earth.

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The undertaking Lone Star went through of creating the deepest hole in the Earth was incredible, even though they didn’t uncover what they were hoping to find. That record wasn’t broken until another half of a decade. In June 1979, a borehole named SG-3 from Kola shattered the record.


Yet Another Fascinating Surprise!

Four years later, the hole, which was not even ten inches wide, burrowed to a staggering 39 thousand feet into the depths of the Earth’s layers. Researchers on the Kola Peninsula briefly put down their machinery after reaching this landmark. They stopped construction on the borehole for a year so that visitors could see the fascinating achievement. Something they weren’t anticipating transpired the following year.

Image: via The Earth Chronicles of Life

Just as they got ready to resume the digging into the Earth’s crust, drilling had to be terminated due to a technical issue. The Soviet explorers were not going to allow their team to be outdone.


Can't Suppress The Curiosity Of An Explorer

They dumped the original borehole and commenced again from a depth of about twenty-three thousand feet. After about five years had gone by, the forceful team had dug to a depth of more than forty thousand feet.

Image: Andre Belozeroff

Perhaps more extraordinary, the borehole was expected to hit its anticipated depth of forty-nine thousand feet by ’93. But under the isolated Russian tundra, something unforeseen awaited. And, strangely, as the drill dug deeper and closer to the Earth’s core, something strange transpired. For the first ten thousand feet, things weren’t going as the diggers believed they would. Temperatures inside the borehole were mostly consistent with what the researchers had predicted at the onset.


Things Begin To Heat Up, Literally!

However, beneath that level, the temperature rose at a much faster rate. So, once the digging got close to its mark, the hole had gotten ridiculously hot to more than 350 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat level was about 176 degrees higher than they had perceived.

Image: Blondinrikard Fröberg

But that wasn’t the end of it. The researchers also found that the rock at these depths was much less dense than they had expected. As a result, it responded strangely and unpredictably to the elevated heat situation.


Time To Plug The Hole...But What Have They Found?

Resulting from the unexpected turn of events, the Kola team rescinded the operation, knowing that their equipment would lose functionality under those circumstances. It was 1992 at the time, twenty-two years after drilling had started.

Image: Bigest

Prior to sealing up what is known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole, researchers got a chance to discover some interesting aspects of the earth’s interior. They found small fossils of marine flora, for instance, at a depth of four miles. For how long they had been wrapped under many miles of boulder – which was believed to be over two billion years old – these mementos were surprisingly unscathed.


Did They Make A Huge Blunder?

However, at the most remote stretches of the Kola Superdeep Borehole, an even more thrilling discovery was made. Specialists had formerly estimated that the rock beneath the Earth’s crust changes from granite to basalt at a max depth of four miles based on seismic waves.

Image: Janko Azkoyen via Atlas Obscura

They learned on the Kola Peninsula quite quickly that what they perceived was not how things were below the Earth’s surface.


Our Scientists Get Schooled By Nature

Instead, even at the borehole’s deepest level, researchers discovered that granite was the only thing present. They eventually deduced that the modification in seismic waves was caused by metamorphic variations in the rock, as opposed to a basalt shift.

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But that wasn’t the end of it. They have found running water several miles under the Earth’s surface, at depths no one expected it to be located.


Signs Of Biblical Occurrences Or Explainable Science?

In the meantime, although some commenters have interpreted the discovery of underground water as evidence of flooding in the biblical era, scientists agree that the phenomenon is the result of high pressure pushing oxygen and hydrogen atoms out of the soil.

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Following that, impermeable rocks blocked the newly created water under the surface of the Earth. The collapse of the Soviet Union coincided with the closing of the Kola Superdeep Borehole, and the project was officially discontinued by 1995.


Did Explorers Interrupt The Earth's Natural Flow?

The site is now classified as an environmental threat, but some remnants from the experiment can still be seen in the nearby town of Zapolyarny, about six miles on the outskirts. Researchers are yet to break the borehole’s record, indicating that it is still the planet’s deepest entryway created by man into the Earth’s core.

Image: wikivisually.com

The competition to the Earth’s heart, however, is far from over. Drilling systems to facilitate the International Ocean Discovery Program proceed with exploring deep under the sea’s bed, combating flunking equipment and harsh temperatures in the process of discovering what secrets are awaiting discovery.


Underwater Journeys Have Many Purposes

However, not every journey under the waters is an attempt to reach the Earth’s heart. A submersible created to accommodate two people, for example, was lowered into the frozen waters of the Antarctic on a voyage of exploration in a literal dive into the unknown. What is the goal of the crew?

Image: Gleam

To dive deeper under the waves near the South Pole than any previous expedition in human history. And what they found down there is a breathtaking look into a world that no one has ever seen before.


Will This Scary Dive Into The Unknown Succeed?

This was not, however, a spur-of-the-moment decision. In reality, it took two years of careful planning to find the ideal time and location for the historic dive.

Image: Alucia / Alucia

And there’s a compelling explanation for it. We know more about the other planets in our solar system than we do about Earth’s ocean floor. Indeed, we’ve succeeded in mapping the surfaces of Mars in greater detail than the seafloors that surround us.


Under Antarctica Is No Easy Feat!

The average distance between Mars and Earth is 140 million miles, to put that into perspective. The total depth of the ocean, on the other hand, is just over 12,000 feet, or about two miles. But if that makes it sound like diving beneath the Antarctic ice is easy, you’re mistaken.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

To begin, scientists had to determine the best location for their descent. However, they eventually settled on a spot known as “Iceberg Alley” – and the name wasn’t given to the area without reason.


Will Scientists Navigate This Treacherous Path?

Near one of the Antarctic Peninsula’s northernmost points, the alley in question forms a channel. It’s a stretch of the sea surrounded by moving ice chunks, some of which are about the size of a car and others covering half a square mile.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

So just getting the submersible-carrying boat to the right location was a massive challenge. A documentary was made about the crew’s journey to set sail into the unknown. And there were some snags along the way, according to executive producer James Honeyborne, who told the BBC that getting through Iceberg Alley was like “a big game of Space Invaders.”


Is Diving Here Really Worth The Risk?

But it wasn’t just getting to the right spot that caused the team problems; there were also other variables at play that complicated the plan.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

For one thing, the team wasn’t sure how the submarines they planned to use would work in the deep water. However, as they started their 3,000-foot descent, those fears may have disappeared.


It Snows Under The Sea!

The underwater snow beneath the Antarctic, for instance, was heavier than scientists had seen just about anywhere in the seas and oceans. But what is marine snow, and what makes it so essential to existence under the sea bed.

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Sea snow is a natural matter that falls from the surface of the sea to the bottom. It transports energy and nutrients from sections of the waters that obtain sunshine to bodies of water that don’t, making it a vital resource of nutrition for deep-sea creatures.


When Poop Has Great Value!

However, krill poo is an important source of nutrients in the deep waters underneath the Antarctic. Krill are small crustaceans that reside in the oceans of our world and play an essential part. Their excrement, in particular, transforms the seafloor into a sticky ecosystem ideal for life.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

And, as it turns out, the existence that flourishes in that place is some of the most bizarre you’ll ever see. The Antarctic Sunstar is one of the most peculiar creatures found by the team, but the explorers gave it a much more ominous name.


Holy Moly!! Is This Creature For Real?

The animal was dubbed a Death Star, and rightly so. The creature, whose Latin root is Labidiaster annulatus, is a popular starfish relation, but it’s a wholly distinct creature.

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For starters, the Death Star may have up to 50 arms and grow to be larger than a hubcap. Small pincers act as a shield on their arms, and when something hits them, they clamp shut. Almost always, the poor victim is a roaming krill. And there’s another odd thing about this Sunstar.


It Doesn't Get Weirder Than This

Although fish are the primary predators in the rest of the world’s oceans, the Death Star is a classic example of Antarctica’s unique things. Little fish can usually live at the South Pole since it is so freezing.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

Invertebrates like the Antarctic Sunstar have been at the top of the food chain as a result of this.

Moreover, swimming in the Antarctic is akin to gazing through a portal into what it was like in the oceans long before humans walked the Earth.


It Gets Even Weirder Under The Sea

The ice dragonfish, or Cryodraco antarcticus, is another strange creature that lives in the Antarctic Ocean. It has adapted in a remarkable way to survive in the extreme cold.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

For starters, the blood carries proteins that serve as antifreeze to keep it from freezing. The blood is transparent, too, as it doesn’t need hemoglobin to transport oxygen throughout its body as we do.


All The Perils Were Worth It!

Dr. Copley and his colleagues’ mission, however, was about more than just seeing unusual animals in their natural environment for the first time. A greater understanding of how life continues in the Antarctic Ocean may also help environmental sustainability all around the South Pole.

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In an interview, the scientist clarified that during these dives, they observed the daily lives of Antarctic deep-sea creatures, which helped the crew understand them much better than following samples obtained by traps or trawls from ships. “It’s also assisting us in determining if our existence is linked to this isolated and delicate ecosystem.”


Is This A Wrap Or Not?

Even the most open areas of the oceans are a mystery, according to Dr. Copley, who believes that this exploration will help to change that. “Sending divers a kilometer down into the sea in the vicinity of Antarctica for the introductory period indicates that no portion of the blue planet is elusive to scientists if they have a desire to venture there.

Image: YouTube/Alucia Productions

Beyond the potential for scientific breakthroughs and a greater awareness of our environment, there’s something much more meaningful about visiting a remote place. Dr. Copley said, “What we’re doing now is an experiment in the purest sense.” “If we all participate in the discovery of our world, we will all feel a sense of responsibility for its future stewardship.