The drilling vessel Chikyu recently set a new drilling-depth world record, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) announced Sept. 6.
During the Deep Coalbed Biosphere expedition, Chikyu’s crew drilled down to 7,217 feet below the seafloor off the Shimokita Peninsula of Japan, collecting high-quality rock samples from the deeply buried coal formation and surpassing the previous scientific ocean-drilling record of 6,925 feet.
Chikyu is a state-of-the-art scientific research vessel, capable of drilling as much as 32,808 feet below sea level. It is designed to reach the deeper part of the Earth, such as the mantle, the plate boundary seisomogenic zones and the deep biosphere and is part an international marine research program called the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP).
Scientists believe the expedition’s achievement is only the beginning of new possibilities in exploration.
“We have just opened a window to the new era of scientific ocean drilling.” said Fumio Inagaki, co-chief scientist of Expedition 337.
Inagaki said the extended record is just the beginning for the Chikyu, and he believes future explorations and discoveries will “extend our systematic understanding of nature, of life and [of] earth.”
His European colleague, co-chief scientist Kai-Uwe Hinrichs from the University of Bremen, Germany, expressed his gratitude for witnessing the event.
“Everybody on the ship worked really hard to make this happen, and I am very pleased about the high quality of the core samples, which show only minimal drilling disturbance,” Hinrichs said.
Samples collected from the target coal beds have been analyzed in the laboratory aboard Chikyu, and they will continue to be examined after the expedition. The research will provide new insights into the deep life associated with a hydrocarbon system in the deep marine subsurface.