Project Mohole

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Underseas beacons for positioning by sonar

Project Mohole was an ambitious attempt to drill through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovičić discontinuity, and to provide an Earth science complement to the high profile Space Race. It was led by the American Miscellaneous Society with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Phase One was executed in spring 1961. Five holes were drilled off the coast of Guadalupe, Mexico, the deepest at 183 m (601 ft) below the sea floor in 3,500 m (11,700 ft) of water. This was unprecedented: not in the hole's depth but because of the depth of the ocean and because it was drilled from an untethered platform. Also, the core sample proved quite valuable, showing Miocene age sediments with the lowest 13 m (44 ft) consisting of basalt.

Project Mohole contracted with Global Marine of Los Angeles for the use of its oil drillship CUSS I. A consortium of Continental, Union, Superior and Shell Oil Companies, CUSS had originally developed it in 1956 as a technological test bed for the nascent offshore oil industry. CUSS I was one of the first vessels in the world capable of drilling in water depth up to 3,560 m (11,680 ft), while maintaining a position within a radius of 600 ft (180 m). Project Mohole expanded its operational range by inventing what is now known as dynamic positioning.

Phase One proved that both the technology and expertise were available to drill into the Earth's mantle. It was intended as the experimental phase of the project, and did succeed in drilling to a depth of 601 feet below the sea floor [1]. However, deeper drilling never took place: phase two of the project was abandoned and the entire project dissolved in 1966 due to poor management and cost overruns.

See also



  • A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea: The Story of the Mohole Project by Willard Bascom, 1961. ISBN-0385007116
  • Oral History Interview. Willard Bascom, 1993.
  • Oral History Interview. Robert Bauer, 1993
  • Milton Lomask, "A Minor Miracle: An Informal History of the National Science Foundation." NSF
  • Chandler, G. N. "Experimental Deep Water Drilling- Project Mohole" (Motion Picture, Library of Congress Catalogue Number: fi 68000006, 28 min)


External links

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