This film documents Project Mohole, an ambitious attempt to drill through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovičić discontinuity, and to provide an Earth science complement to the high-profile Space Race. The project was initially led by the American Miscellaneous Society with funding from the National Science Foundation. The goal was to use technology developed for the petroleum industry to penetrate deeper into the Earth's crust than ever before. A converted U.S. Navy ship, CUSK ONE, was used in the program. Mohole inadvertently contributed to another project led by corporate sponsor Global Marine, the Jennifer Project in which the Glomar Explorer (a larger platform than Cusk) was used in an attempt to retrieve a Soviet submarine.
Phase One was executed in spring 1961. Five holes were drilled off the coast of Guadalupe Island, Mexico, the deepest to 601 ft (183 m) below the sea floor in 11,700 ft (3,600 m) of water. This was unprecedented: not in the hole's depth but because of the depth of the ocean and because it was drilled from an untethered platform. Also, the core sample proved to be valuable; penetrating through Miocene-age sediments for the first time to reveal the lowest 13 m (44 ft) consisting of basalt.
Project Mohole contracted with Global Marine of Los Angeles for the use of its oil drillship CUSS I. A consortium of Continental, Union, Superior and Shell Oil Companies, CUSS had originally developed it in 1956 as a technological test bed for the nascent offshore oil industry. CUSS I was one of the first vessels in the world capable of drilling in water depth up to 11,700 ft (3,600 m), while maintaining a position within a radius of 600 ft (180 m). Project Mohole expanded its operational range by inventing what is now known as dynamic positioning.
Phase One proved that both the technology and expertise were available to drill into the Earth's mantle. It was intended as the experimental phase of the project, and did succeed in drilling to a depth of 601 feet below the sea floor. However, deeper drilling never took place. An attempted shift of operational control to the National Science Foundation proved unsatisfactory, and in short order the American Miscellaneous Society dissolved itself, phase two of the project was abandoned and the entire project was discontinued by Congress, which objected to increasing costs in 1966.
The American Miscellaneous Society (AMSOC - 1952 to 1964) was formed by Gordon Lill, of the Office of Naval Research, as an organization designed to collect various Earth science research ideas that were submitted by scientists to the U.S. Navy and didn't fit into any particular category. Membership in AMSOC was open to everyone and so there was no official membership list. Prospective members could join whenever two or more members were together. The most famous project to come out of AMSOC was the Project Mohole, whose goal was to drill into the Earth's mantle. The society dissolved itself in 1964.
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