To the northern Russia, on the Kola Peninsula, there is a hole dug in the ground that goes down more than 12 kilometers towards the center of the Earth, in the Baltic continental crust. It is the result of a draft baptized in the 70’s, in the Cold War, as the Kola Superdeep Borehole and since it reached its bottom in 1989 it continues to be the deepest well made by man.
Kola Superdeep Borehole drill rig in 1986. (Photo: Alexander Tumanov / TASS)
As a result of that project started in 1970 there are several holes. One central and others that started from him. The one known as the deepest made in the earth’s crust is called the Kola Superdeep Well (KSDB) or SG-3 and has a length of 12,226 meters. The end? Nothing to do with looking for oil or any other economic exploitation. The objective was to realize geophysical studies to better understand the behavior of the subsoil and, incidentally, find fossil remains from millions of years back better preserved than those found on the surface.
The origin of this project dates back to 1962. It was launched in May 1970 and was completed in 1989, not without a endless setbacks and mishaps that ended their definitive stoppage in the nineties. The initial objective was to achieve depth of up to 15 kilometers. They were less than 3,000 meters away when a calculation error and lack of funding definitively truncated the work plan. The first had to do with temperature scientists expected to find to those depths. Their bills said it would be around 100 degrees. However the thermometer read 180 and the tools, as they point out in Engadget, they melted.
In addition, in the eighties they had to face several stoppages. By 1983 they had already exceeded 12,000 meters. For a year they stopped working on the excavation and on their return, in 1984, there was a landslide that covered almost half of them of the advanced. They had to start again from 7,000 meters. In 1989 he reached 12,262 meters and he did not go beyond there. Those responsible wanted to continue, but it was materially impossible.
In the hands of the state company GNPP Nedra, a geological laboratory was established inside the well for a time, but the lack of economic injections and support in all senses ended the closure for good shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
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But Kola’s Superdeep Well It is not the only hole that exists of this time in the earth’s crust. The Russian, like his American and German companions, was the fruit of a race to reach the depths of the Earth comparable, to some extent, to the space race. As Uli Harms, from the BBC’s International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, explained not long ago, who worked on the German well, “drilling started in the days of the Iron Curtain. Certainly there was competition between us. One of the main reasons was that the Russians just didn’t want to share their data. “
In the early stages, “when the Russians started drilling, they claimed they had found free water, something most scientists just didn’t believe.” And that was one of the findings of the project. Although the rivalry between Germans and Russians included the Americans. They were the pioneers in this sense, when, as the BBC recalls, in the late 1950s they launched the Mohole Project. His starting point was Guadalupe, in Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean. They were looking for the advantage that the earth’s crust is thinner at the bottom of the sea than on the surface. The Germans came to the race much later, in 1990, with the Continental Deep Drilling (KTB) program in Bavaria and nine kilometers excavated.
None of the projects succeeded in meeting their objective. It was difficult to get it since the appropriate technology was not available and they had to invent it as they went along. That same technology that years later oil and gas exploitations have taken advantage of. Doing so was expensive and little by little the teams in charge of the drilling and studies were losing funding and support.
Of the three, the only one that still has a certain life, even as a stronghold for curious tourists, is the German well. Now, they point out from the British chain’s website, those who are working to continue this exploration route are the Japanese, who are also betting on the seabed.