Chikyu, the amazing Japanese drilling ship that dug a record well at sea: 7.7 kilometers underwater

There are ships dedicated to supplying our fish markets, loading with merchandise containers, crossing half the world with “guts” loaded with fuel, studying the seas or taking us from port to port during our vacations. And then there’s the Chikyuwhich is dedicated to neither more nor less than opening huge wells in the ocean to allow us to know it better and, incidentally, understand how earthquakes are generatedthe history of the earth or the origin of life.

Resources have to do it, of course.

Chikyu is a scientific drilling vessel, the one with the largest capacity, according to the organization in charge of operating it, the Japanese agency JAMSTECwhich presents it as the “flagship” of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). Thanks to that ability, throughout his career he has managed various records and in April 2012 it extended its drilling column 7,740 meters underwater, which is roughly equivalent to placing nine Burj Khalifa towers—the largest skyscraper ever built—one under another.

“The measurement established the world record total length of scientific drill string”, highlights the JAMSTEC. The brand was once a milestone that was reached off the Oshika peninsula, in Miyagi, in northern Japan.

Objective: expand knowledge

Of course, Chikyu and those responsible did not face the challenge to sneak into the Guinness book, but to make it easier for scientists to better understand how the fateful event occurred. earthquake —and tsunami— that in 2011 left thousands of victims in the region. Achieving such depth required drilling a well of 856.5 meters below the bed marine at a point located at a depth of 6,883.5 m. All with the purpose of reaching the fault zone to the west of the axis of the Japan Trench.

The previous record had been achieved by the ship Glomar Challenger in the late 1970s in the Mariana Trench. A few years ago, in 2021, another team of Japanese scientists managed to go even further and reach a mark of 8,023 m. The record was crowned with the support of the Kaimei ship, which JAMSTEC nevertheless identifies as “research vessel”no perforator, label that does give the Chikyu. the kaimei In any case, it is not just any boat: on board it carries sophisticated and complete scientific study equipment.

“Completed in July 2005, the Chikyu deep-water drilling ship has the most advanced drilling capabilities in the world,” highlights the Japanese organization, which insists that, thanks to this capacity, of 7,000 meters, the ship allows to penetrate at points in the mantle and the seismogenic zone.

“As the main vessel of IODP, the objective of Chikyu is to facilitate a wide range of activities that, once carried out, will help the future of humanity —highlights the JAMSTC—. These activities may include revealing the mechanism for developing a large earthquake, the origins of lifefuture global environmental changes and new deep-sea resources”.

As to your technical sheet, the ship measures 210 meters in length with a beam of 38 m and a draft of 16.2 and is capable of advancing at a cruising speed of 12 knots with a crew of 200 people. The most characteristic feature of her, however, is the drilling equipment with which she carries, with a kilometric tube.

“On board carry 10 kilometers of pipeline drilling. That means it is possible to drill from the ship up to 10,000 meters deep. A riser is needed for this, so the water depth can be 2,500 maximum to support the heavy weight of the riser system above. 10 kilometers minus 2.5 km gives us 7.5 km, which is the length of the greatest possible drilling depth below the seabed,” details.

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Such muscle allowed him to add another historical mark to his extensive service record in January 2014, when he achieved a new scientific drilling record: 3,058.5 meters under the seabed at a point where the water reached a depth of 1,939 m, so that the total length of its pipeline exceeded 5 km.

“Life in the primitive Earth started in a anoxic environment, high temperature and pressure. Currently, the only places where these conditions exist are deep underground, hot springs, and marine hydrothermal vents. Chikyu’s exploration of deep undersea coal deposits has found assemblages of microbes that have adapted to their environment over millions of years as it was slowly buried and turned into coal.” They explain from the Japanese agencybased in Kanagawa.

An unusual ability to a piercing target.

Images: Satoshi KAYA (Unsplash), Yokosuka New Port (Wikipedia)

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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