The Deepest Hole in the Earth - Kola Superbole Hole

Updated on April 19, 2019
DurhamStokie profile image

I write about things I find interesting, and although I am not an expert, I have fun learning as I research. I hope you like the results!

Born to Explore

From the deepest oceans to the furthest reaches of space, man has an insatiable curiosity to see what is there.
From the deepest oceans to the furthest reaches of space, man has an insatiable curiosity to see what is there.

Born To Explore

Man is a great explorer by our very nature, always curious and seeking beyond what is already known.

This applies to everything from scientific research, to inter-stellar travel and ocean exploration.

There is, however, a place right beneath our feet that remains virtually unknown.

What exactly lies deep underground and why is it relatively unexplored?

The Deepest Mines

Mining has been taking place for thousands of years as we look to exploit the Earth’s resources for our gain. Coal, precious metals, oil, gas and other resources are taken and turned to good use for humanity's benefit and comfort of life.

AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng gold mine, just to the South-West of Johannesburg in South Africa, is the world’s deepest mine and reaches to a depth of just over four kilometres. Indeed, eight out of the ten deepest mines in the world are in South Africa, with the other two located in Canada.

When you consider the radius of the Earth is 6,371km, these mines are barely scratching the surface at approximately 0.062% of the distance to the centre of the planet.

There is, however, a place in Russia which is three times that distance. In terms of percentage, it is still a minuscule depth at 0.189% of the Earth’s radius, but at twelve kilometres it's three times deeper than the deepest mine and is as far as man has ever journeyed towards the centre of the Earth.

Earth's Resources

Some of the resources we take from mines around the world are precious gemstones.
Some of the resources we take from mines around the world are precious gemstones.

The Race For The Mantle

Known as the Kola Superdeep Borehole, it is located on the Kola Peninsula in North-West Russia. The peninsula is inside the Arctic Circle and borders both Finland and Norway, with the nearest major Russian city being Murmansk.

The concept was initiated as part of the Cold War battle between the Soviet Union and the USA as they locked horns and tried to out-do each other in all manner of political and scientific ways, most notably the space race which ended in 1969 with the USA landing a man on the moon.

Both nations set out with the intention of drilling below the Earth’s crust into the area between the crust and the mantle, known as the Mohorovic Discontinuity.

The crust is estimated to be somewhere between 35 and 50 km in thickness. Plans were developed in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, with the resulting American 'Project Mohole' off the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and the Russians with their Kola Superdeep Borehole.

This time the Russians came out clear victors, with the American project running out of funding in 1966, just five years after drilling began.

Composition of the Earth

A cutaway diagram of the inner composition of the Earth
A cutaway diagram of the inner composition of the Earth

The Kola Peninsula

Russia's Kola Peninsula: Norway lies to the North-West, and to the South-West is Finland
Russia's Kola Peninsula: Norway lies to the North-West, and to the South-West is Finland

What Was Learned From This Project?

The actual drilling began on the nine inch wide Kola borehole on May 24th, 1970 and ceased 24 years later due to reaching unexpectedly high temperatures of 180°C (356°F) that made the rocks behave more like plastic than rock.

This combination of rock behaviour and high temperature made further drilling unfeasible and work ceased. The site is now abandoned and run-down.

So what was learned from the lifespan of this ambitious Soviet project?

  • Great breakthroughs in drilling processes which have enabled us to dig deeper than ever before to reach less accessible oil wells both on land and in the sea.
  • The transition between granite and basalt that scientists expected to find somewhere between three to six kilometres beneath the surface failed to materialise. This led to the realisation that previous predictions were wrong and the seismological studies they had based their predictions on were actually showing a change in heat and pressure rather than a change of rock type.
  • Possibly the most surprising find was water right down to the 12km mark. Scientists had not expected to find water at this depth and believe that hydrogen and oxygen atoms have squeezed out of the rocks due to the intense pressure exerted on them, to fill the cracks. The impermeable nature of the rocky ceiling above would prevent the moisture from escaping.
  • The biggest rival to the discovery of water at those depths is undoubtedly the discovery of fossils of different species of micro-organisms, more commonly known as plankton.

The Borehole's Cover

The borehole is firmly closed off with this metal cover. On it is written in white lettering, the numbers 12,226, the number of metres to which the holes sinks.
The borehole is firmly closed off with this metal cover. On it is written in white lettering, the numbers 12,226, the number of metres to which the holes sinks.

The Site of the Kola Superbole Hole

The 'Well to Hell' Hoax

Of course, as with many other things that test mankind's ingenuity and skill, there are detractors and people who like to stir up controversy. The Kola drilling project was no different, and in 1989, a US religion based TV programme claimed that they had drilled so far into the Earth that they had reached right into the depths of Hell itself.

There are so many details that are wrong that it is amazing the legend still persists today. They claimed that the well was 14.4 kilometres deep, had bored into a cavity and temperatures reached 1,000 degrees Celsius. Supposedly intrigued by this, the Russian team lowered heat sensitive (presumably 'very' heat sensitive) recording equipment down the hole to listen and record, and heard the sound of tormented screams from within.

Clearly, this was all completely random claims and outright untruths thrown together to alarm people and reinforce the idea of Hell being somewhere people needed saving from. None of the above details were true, including the location. They were so far off they labelled it as being in Siberia - a mere 5,000 miles or so out of the way.

This hoax contained more falsehoods than a political party manifesto
This hoax contained more falsehoods than a political party manifesto

The Idea Hasn't Died With Kola

Many of the core samples taken during the working lifetime of the drilling operation at Kola are stored ten kilometres to the South of the site, in a town called Zapolyarny. Studies continue on the Kola project’s data and maybe more discoveries will eventually come from the analyzation of this data, we wait and see.

The actual depth reached by the Kola drilling project has been surpassed by a few metres by oil drilling companies in Russia and the Middle East, but this drilling has been undertaken with the sole purpose of obtaining oil and gas.

In the meantime, it seems the ambition to reach the Earth’s mantle has not been forgotten or discarded. There are plans afoot to try again, this time in a part of the Indian Ocean known as Atlantis Bank which you can read about here.

For more detailed information on the Kola Superdeep Borehole and for more pictures of the site, past and present, click here.

Video of the Main Details of Kola Superdeep Borehole

The Deepest Mines

Mining has been taking place for thousands of years as we look to exploit the Earth’s resources for our gain. Coal, precious metals, oil, gas and other resources are taken and turned to good use for humanity's benefit and comfort of life.

AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng gold mine, just to the South-West of Johannesburg in South Africa, is the world’s deepest mine and reaches to a depth of just over four kilometres. Indeed, eight out of the ten deepest mines in the world are in South Africa, with the other two located in Canada.

When you consider the radius of the Earth is 6,371km, these mines are barely scratching the surface at approximately 0.062% of the distance to the centre of the planet. There is, however, a place in Russia which is three times that distance. In terms of percentage, it is still a minuscule depth at 0.189% of the Earth’s radius, but at twelve kilometres it's three times deeper than the deepest mine and is as far as man has ever journeyed towards the centre of the Earth.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Ian McKay

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • DurhamStokie profile imageAUTHOR

        Ian McKay 

        4 months ago from Durham

        Thank you for the feedback Judith, much appreciated!

      • Judith Hayes profile image

        Judith Hayes 

        4 months ago from Maine and Florida

        Very interesting article and good graphics. Geology is a hobby I enjoy.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)