Worlds of David Darling > Children's
Encyclopedia of Science > Could You Ever Dig a Hole to China? > Introduction
COULD YOU EVER DIG A HOLE TO CHINA?
a book in the Could You Ever? series by David Darling
Imagine that you and some of your friends have been given the year off school
to carry out an incredible project. Equipped with spades, pickaxes, drills,
lights, ladders, and any other tools you may need, your task is simple:
to dig the deepest hole you possibly can.
| Image the wonders you would find as you
descended below the surface. This is a scene from inside the famous
Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.
Where will you choose to dig? What will you find as you gradually descend
– gold, oil, dinosaur bones? And how deep will you be able to go?
Given enough time and help, could you make a hole all the way through to
the other side of the world?
Many stories have been written about explorers who ventured beneath the
Earth’s surface. One famous tale is Journey to the Center of the Earth,
written more than a century ago by the French author Jules Verne. It tells
how three men – Professor Otto Lidenbrock and his nephew Axel, both
German, along with their Icelandic guide Hans – descend into the crater
of an inactive volcano. Inside, they find a passage that leads deep underground.
Verne had a fantastic imagination. His tale told of a great sea, living
dinosaurs, and even a race of primitive people that lived far below the
surface of our planet. Today, we know that, even though such things do not
exist, the interior of the Earth really is a remarkable place.
Much of what has been learned about conditions far underground has come
from experiments carried out on the surface. Valuable information has been
gained by studying the way earthquake waves bend as they pass through various
layers inside the Earth. Scientists have also sampled rock that has recently
welled up from inside the planet through volcanoes and deep cracks. Unlike
Verne’s explorers, though, we have not yet gone far underground.
So, could you ever dig a hole to China? In what follows, we shall look at
the efforts that have been made to penetrate the Earth, and at the problems
deeper drilling projects will encounter in the years to come. We shall consider,
too, the challenge a future expedition might face if it were to bore a path
right through the middle of the world and out the other side.