Drilling For Answers

Every now and then the inner Geologist in me geeks out so hard that he explodes to the surface, ooooh-ing and ahhhh-ing the whole way. Today is one of those days.

Scientists have commissioned a drill rig to position itself 30km off the coast of Mexico in an attempt to drill down to the remnants of a crater that appeared ~66 million years ago. The crater was the result of a massive asteroid impact that caused (at least partially) the extinction of the Dinosaurs and of most life on Earth at the time.

WHOA.

Yeah, you could say I’m geeking out pretty hard right now. I’m also insanely jealous. Dinosaurs were at least part of the reason I got into Geology (and any geologist that reads that will give me a hard time for it), and I’ve worked on drill rigs! Why can’t I be there too!?

I won’t delve too far into the science of it all, but I’ll break down what I believe their main goals are:

  1. To test their models for asteroid collisions with respect to lithostatic rebound. During such a high energy impact the underlying rock would have turned into a state similar to a fluid and acted like water if you threw a stone into it; rising up and settling out in ripples. If they find older rocks lying above younger ones, they think they’ll have gotten it right.
  2. To test the extinction hypothesis and to look for evidence of life during and after the impact. The closer the team gets to the impact layer they should see less and less life. Based on remote sensing data, some of the rock at the impact zone appears to be porous. If this is the case, then shortly after impact sea water would have rushed in to fill the crater depression, filling in the holes. Microbes (extremophiles) have been known to flourish in high temperature (low survivability) environments. If they are found, the theoretical resilience of life is expanded. Furthermore, it could be an even more exotic form of life that chemically feeds on sulphur and iron (chemosynthesis).

To aid in explaining how and what they’re doing, I’ve included a diagram of the whole process:

DINODRILL
Source

Isn’t that SUPER COOL!? Well, I think so anyways. Hopefully you enjoyed reading about that. For those that want to read the whole story in its original form, I’ve included the link to the article here.

Whether you believe an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, exponential volcanism, some other form of climate change, or a combination of all the above, I won’t argue your point one way of the other here. The fact of the matter is that a major asteroid impact happened ~66 million years ago and the dinosaurs died off shortly thereafter. This project seeks to add another piece to the puzzle. What a time to be alive!

Cheers.

Featured image: KA-BOOM! – Google

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