Eleven and a half meters. This is the length of the sedimentary core recently taken from the oceanic trench of Puerto Rico, at a depth of around 8500 meters. This is the deepest sample ever taken in the Atlantic Ocean and probably even on a global scale.
Scientists carried out this drilling in February and March 2022 aboard the research vessel RV Neil Armstrong operated by the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography (USA). The goal of this project ? Learn more about how microorganisms have evolved and adapted to such a diverse range of depths and environmental conditions from the surface to several meters below the ocean floor, including the most remote abysses.
Multiple drillings with implications for climate science
It should be noted that the team did not carry out just one borehole. Several cores were taken at horizons ranging from fifty meters below the surface of the sea for the easiest access to more than 8380 meters for the deepest. Not surprisingly, the latter is also the one that arouses the most curiosity. “We took these cores to find out how the microbes that live under the seabed react to pressure,” reports Steven D’Hond, one of the project leaders.
“Our ultimate goal is to improve our understanding of how organisms in extreme environments interact with the world around them,” continues the researcher. “The success of our team in extracting this core from the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean will allow us to make a considerable advance in our understanding of this little-known part of life on Earth.”
The samples collected should also help to learn more about the climatic variations of the last hundreds of thousands of years, or even the last millions of years. Indeed, the study of marine sediments is one of the time machines used by paleoclimatologists to reconstruct the history of environmental conditions that prevailed in the Earth’s distant past.
“This accomplishment was only possible because of the phenomenal teamwork of everyone involved, including those who helped develop the Long Core Barrel nearly twenty years ago,” said Rick Murray, Deputy Director of the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography.