A Japanese drilling vessel has set a record by drilling more than 6,926 feet (2,111 meters) beneath the seafloor, deeper than ever before for a scientific expedition, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology announced today (Sept. 6).
The drilling was done off Shimokita Peninsula of Japan as part of an expedition that began in July and is scheduled to continue for three more weeks.
It's less than three feet (1 meter) deeper than the previous record. The goal of the expedition and its vessel, the Chikyu, is to drill down to 7,220 feet (2,220 m) beneath the ocean's bottom.
"This scientific vessel has tremendous potentials to explore very deep realms that humans have never studied before," expedition scientist Fumio Inagaki said in a statement. "The deep samples are precious, and I am confident that our challenges will extend our systematic understanding of the nature of life and earth."
The goal is to bring up samples from the Earth's mantle, to learn more about the planet's ancient geologic history and to better understand the microbes that live at such depths. The samples also may help understand where hydrocarbons like methane come from and how they are created.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the fact that this record is for drilling for scientific purposes. Oil rigs have drilled more than 6,926 feet (2,111 meters) below the seafloor.