A research team drilling into the bed of the Dead Sea hopes to uncover a half a million years of history and potential secrets of past climate change and natural disasters.
According to a Reuters report, the engineers and scientists began extracting layers of the earth’s core on Sunday, and will continue to drill for about two months until they reach a depth of 4,000 feet below sea level.
“The sediments of the Dead Sea are the best climate and earthquake recorders for the entire Middle East,” project head Zvi Ben-Avraham of the Israel Academy of Sciences told the news agency.
The Dead Sea, which is nearly 1,400 feet below sea level, collects water run-off from Egypt’s Sinai desert up to the Golan Heights, an area of around 26,000 square miles, providing plenty of material for climate research, Ben-Avraham said.
It is also on a fault line between two continental plates moving at different speeds, causing tectonic activity.
Ben-Avraham said the sea bed is like a tree that has growth rings; it adds two layers of sediment every year. The team will study 500,000 years worth of geological history that could help them understand the future.
From the extracted layers of sediment, the team hopes to find information on ancient rainfall, floods and droughts, and even earthquakes that can be used in studies on how to best deal with global warming.
Scientists and environmentalists have also been rushing in recent years to find a solution to the lake’s receding shoreline, for which many experts blame regional water mismanagement. The team hopes drilling will provide some historical insight.
The project is part of the International Continental Drilling Program, which has drilled dozens of holes all across the globe in an effort to find the best way to manage the earth’s resources and environment.
Scientists from around the world are involved in the Dead Sea drilling project, Ben-Avraham said.
Utah-based DOSECC, a non-profit corporation, was awarded the task of drilling, operating both day and night. It will drill a 2-inch-wide hole, which is smaller than those used to find oil. The drilling will continue until they reach 1600 feet, said operations manager Beau Marshall. Samples will be analyzed and archived, he said.
“We’ve drilled a lot of fresh water lakes, we’ve done some salt water activity as well, but the Dead Sea is quite unique,” Marshall told Reuters.
“It’s going to require us to keep everything well lubricated and cleaned up because the salt will wreak havoc on our equipment,” he said.
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