Friday, March 24

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 is the Chikyu, which 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 highest capacity, according to the organization in charge of operating it, the Japanese agency JAMSTEC, which presents it as the “flagship” of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP). Thanks to this capacity, throughout his career he has achieved several records and in April 2012 he extended his drilling column 7,740 meters underwater, which is more or less equivalent to placing nine Burj Khalifa towers —the largest skyscraper ever built—one under the other.

“The measurement established the world record of total length of the scientific drilling column”, highlights JAMSTEC. The mark in its day was 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 earthquake —and tsunami— occurred that in 2011 left thousands of victims in the region. Achieving such depth required drilling a well 856.5 meters below the seabed at a point 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.

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The previous record had been achieved by the Glomar Challenger ship 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 a “research vessel”, not a driller, a label that it does give to 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 lead ship of IODP, Chikyu’s goal is to facilitate a wide range of activities that, once completed, will help the future of humanity,” JAMSTC notes. “These activities may include revealing the mechanism for developing a major earthquake, the origins of lifefuture global environmental changes and new deep-sea resources”.

Regarding its technical data, 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.

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“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 under the seabed,” he 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 the total length of your pipeline increased from 5 km.

“Life in the primitive Earth started in an anoxic, high temperature and pressure environment. 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. based in Kanagawa.

An unusual ability to a piercing target.

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

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