On this day in 1970, scientists in Russia began drilling what would become the deepest hole humans ever made.


Back then, the USSR and the United States had been in a space race, but there was also a geology race to drill down into the Earth’s mantle, the stuff below the crust.

The hope was to learn more about how the Earth works, in particular about earthquakes and volcanoes.

Even so, the drilling race got much less attention than the space race, and a lot less funding.

In fact, the U.S. project, off the coast of Mexico, eventually lost its funding, which left the Soviets clear to go deep.

So, on the Kola Peninsula, in far northwestern Russia, they began the appropriately named Kola Superdeep Borehole project.

Over more than two decades of drilling they made it 7.5 miles down.

That wasn’t enough to make it through the Earth’s crust to the mantle below, but still, pretty good.

They even found some tiny plankton fossils, notable given the extremely high temperatures all that way down.

It was those temperatures that put an end to the Kola project, which, despite some other massive boreholes, is still officially the deepest in terms of vertical height.

Not that you can look down into it: today the hole is covered by a heavy metal cap that’s been welded shut.

And besides ,the miles deep hole is only nine inches in diameter.

Here’s a story about holes, or being in the hole, anyway.

Today in 1977, prog rock stars Emerson, Lake & Palmer launched a major US tour.

How major?

They had a full orchestra, a choir, and a massive backstage entourage that included a personal karate trainer and a guy whose full-time job was to look after and clean an expensive Persian rug.

Fans loved the show, the accountants not so much.

Beneath this Metal Cap is the World’s Deepest Hole (Slate)

Greg Lake (The Times)

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Photo by Rakot13 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikicommons