Drilling into the Earth

Scientists have been fascinated with the idea of drilling to the center of the Earth for years now. The problem is there are several different obstacles one would have to overcome to even get close to the center. When you consider the fact that drilling into the Earth is much like drilling into a pressurized bottle of wine, you will see it is virtually impossible to make it to the center.

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As of today, the deepest anyone has ever gone is just 7.6 miles or just 0.2 percent of the distance the Earth’s core (Anthony 1). While scientists want to go deeper into the Earth they are not equipped to do so. In order to drill into the Earth, one first must make it past 3.7 miles of the earth’s crust. The crust is the thin rocky outer shell of the earth and is made up of mostly of water, Basalt, and Granite. The crust may be the thinness layer of the Earth, but you still must drill through its hard and rocky shell. Cutting through rock would eventually wear away drill bits and the drill pipe so you would have to keep replacing the equipment. Replacing expensive equipment means more and more money going out of your budget. If you could make it past the crust you would find yourself facing the task of drilling into Earth’s mantle next. The mantle of the earth is made up of completely solid rock. It has an average thickness of 2,886 kilometers and makes up 84 percent of the Earth’s volume. Temperatures within the mantle range from approximately 392 degrees Fahrenheit at the upper part of the mantle where it meets with the crust to almost 7,230 degrees Fahrenheit once it gets closer to the core-mantle boundary (Carlson, Hammersley, & Plummer 470). Penetrating the mantle would require a specialized drill that could both withstand the heat of the mantle and break through its solid rock. Unfortunately, scientists and engineers have not been able to create a drill that can withstand the hot temperatures within the mantle or crush through its solid rock without breaking. If one survived the hot temperatures of the mantle, they would be faced with trying to go through the Earth’s outer core next.

The outer core of the Earth would be even harder to drill through than the mantle because its temperatures are increasingly hotter. Temperatures within the outer core range from 8,132- and 9,932-degrees Fahrenheit (National Geographic). It is the only layer of the Earth that is made up of liquid and it consists of mostly nickel and iron. The outer core of the Earth is what creates our magnetic field and allows the earth to spin on its axis. Drilling into the outer core would be impossible since it is composed of just liquid and any tools used to explore the outer core would melt. There is also the possibility that one may disturb the rotation of the Earth if you were to try and explore the outer core. Any activity done would have to be carefully monitored as to not disrupt the rotation of the Earth. Once you get past the inner core you will see the inner core of our Earth. The inner core of the Earth is a rather hot and dense ball of iron. It has a radius of 1,220 kilometers and an average temperature of 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit (National Geographic). While the inner core is composed of iron and nickel it is not a liquid like the outer core of the Earth is. The inner core of our Earth is separated by the outer core and this causes it to rotate slightly different from the rest of the planet. There is virtually no way one could drill their way through to the inner core. As you would move closer to the inner core you would be creating a larger hole within the Earth and its ability to not collapse in on itself would become harder and harder to manage. Pressure is also another problem someone would face if they tried to drill to far into the Earth. As you move deeper, the pressure within the Earth would increase and this would require the drill pipe to work harder and harder to push through to the center of the Earth.

Pressure and rising temperatures are not the only problems one would face when trying to make it to the center of our world. At the crust level there are sedimentary rocks which are filled with pressurized fluid and as you drill into the Earth those fluids want to flow up the giant borehole that you created. As more fluid builds up there is a chance a major blowout could occur. Minerals within the earth also carry toxic or radioactive materials so the equipment being used becomes too dangerous to handle (Yirka 3). One must also make sure they are avoiding any faults or plate boundaries when drilling into the Earth. A disruption of the faults or plate boundaries may not be significant enough to cause an Earthquake, but they may be enough to cause significant leaking within the borehole from pressurized fluids and magma flowing within the Earth. Drilling into the Earth is also a dangerous operation for those involved. Geologists and Scientists need to be trained properly on how to handle all equipment and any toxic materials they retrieve from their expeditions so that they do not get injured or sick. Scientific drilling began in 1968 and with new innovations has since been ramped up as scientists grow more intent on discovering everything they can about our plant and what is inside it. Today there are a total of 23 different countries all trying to conduct their own research through a project called the International Ocean Discovery Program (O’Connell 3). This program uses ocean drilling to learn more about our oceans floors while also trying to explore our Earth’s crust in hopes of learning how we may drill our way to the Earth’s core.

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