Researchers Drill World's Deepest Hole for Science in the Ocean Floor

Drilling the Core

Crewmembers wrangle with the drill during operations last week.JAMSTEC

Japanese researchers have toppled a 19-year-old record for the deepest science-motivated passage into the floor of the world, reaching 2,466 meters (about 8,024 feet) as of today. That's about 2,000 feet deeper than the lowest part of the Grand Canyon, from rim to floor. The old record, 2,111 meters, fell Friday.

"If champagne were allowed onboard the Chikyu, we certainly would have opened a bottle," Kai-Uwe Hinrichs, the mission's co-chief scientist, wrote on the mission blog.

The Chikyu is the largest research vessel ever built, and it's on an expedition off Japan's Shimokita Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean. The Deep Coalbed Biosphere Expedition is designed to obtain core samples from 2,200 meters below the seafloor. The team might find the deepest life ever encountered, including microbes that could be involved in the production of natural gas.

Their target at the Nankai Trough is 3.6 kilometers, or 2.23 miles. Chikyu is supposed to be capable of drilling to 10,000 meters, or 6.2 miles, into the Earth's crust. The expedition continues for another three weeks.