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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Mission MoHole, A Journey into the Mantle.

Currently Active: 

The Geochemistry Group is playing a prominent role in a new Mohole drilling project. Prof. Damon Teagle is a lead proponent along with some of the world's foremost Earth Scientists who have submitted a proposal to drill, for the first time, a hole into oceanic crust that extends into the Earth's Mantle.  The Earth's mantle makes up ~68% of the total mass of Earth, thus drilling and recovering in situ mantle material will give us new insights into some of the most fundamental processes that formed and continue to shape our planet.

Illustration of a typical section of ocean crust with Site 1256 and the Mission Mohole target (After Smith-Duque, C.E)
Proposed drilling target

Scientific Aims

  1. Determine the true nature of the Earth's upper mantle:
    This will include determination of it's chemical composition, the scales of compositional variation, and the physical properties of the mantle.
  2. Discover the geological nature of the Mohorovicic discontinuity:
    This is currently understood as a change from crustal rocks to mantle rock as deduced from a sharp increase in seismic velocity. However only by drilling to the mantle and sampling mantle material in situ can we understand the nature of this boundary.
  3. Understand how ocean crust is formed at mid-ocean ridges:
    Recovery of a complete section of oceanic crust to mantle material will provide us with a complete sample of the thermal regimes and hydrothermal interactions that occur throughout the crustal section.
  4. Determine the extent of life in oceanic crust:
    only by sampling an entire section of oceanic crust will we gain a better understanding of the extent of life within oceanic crust and how such life might influence crustal processes.





Scaled illustration of the major processes that help drive plate tectonics
Crustal Processes

Laying the foundation

Much of the important groundwork for Mission Mohole has been achieved by research within the Geochemistry Group.

Drilling at ODP/IODP Site 1256:

  • The world's most representative section of modern ocean crust to date.
  • Much of the geochemical and petrographic characterization has been carried out by Geochemistry group scientists.

Understanding deep crustal processes:

  • Developing models for crustal accretion at mid-ocean ridges.
  • Sampling and research that  exploits tectonic windows into plutonic rocks at Hess Deep.

Press Releases:

National Geographic: Scientists to Drill Earth's Mantle, Retrieve First Sample?

BBC News: Drillers Propose Deep Earth Quest

CBS News: Journey Planned to the Center of the Earth

Huffington Post: Scientists To Drill Deeper Than Ever Before, Hope To Sample Mantle Scientists plan to drill all the way down to the Earth's mantle

 Mantle drilling initial feasibility study completed

Key Contact

Prof. Damon Teagle (Mission Mohole Proponent)

PhDs and Other Opportunities


Associated research themes

Formation and Evolution of the Ocean Crust

Volcanic Processes

Hydrothermal Processes and Mineral Deposits

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