Deep-Sea Drill Set for Climate Research

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Deep-Sea Drill Set for Climate Research

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The CHIKYU is studded with superlatives. Completed last year, the ship houses the world's biggest deep-sea drill, sports a high-tech floating laboratory and boasts a $500 million price tag.

The Japanese boat has an ambitious agenda to match: uncover the secrets of climate change, find microbes that help explain the origin of life, and clarify the causes of earthquakes.

The 210-yard ship underwent its first major test run in November, drilling deep into the ocean floor off northern Japan for specimens that scientists say can yield historical information on everything from volcano cycles to global warming.

"The contributions from this are actually immense," said Daniel Curewitz, a structural geologist who supervises the ship's lab, as he pointed to long tubes of deep-sea sediment. "Each one of these cores is a tape recorder."

The key to the project is the CHIKYU's mammoth drill, which operators say is capable of boring 7,000 meters nearly 4 1/2 miles into the ocean floor. That would be far deeper than the 2,111-meter or 1.3-mile hole achieved by the U.S.'s drilling vessel, the 20-year-old Joides Resolution.

"Beyond 2,000 meters, we will be opening a new frontier in earth sciences," declared Asahiko Taira, a U.S.-educated geologist and director general of the Center for Deep Earth Exploration, under the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

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This new deep sea drill will bring much information in the study of climate change and hopefully the ability to predict quakes. Hopefully in a few years we will learn more about life origins.
By YCON: posted on 30-1-2006

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