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Journey To The Center of The Earth Set to Begin This Spring

SOUTHHAMPTON, England ---“Hey there Verne “ ---- Jules Verne’s novel  A Journey to the Center of the Earth is about to become a reality as two European Scientist plan a trek to the Earth’s mantle

Half century after scientists failed on their first attempt to penetrate the Earth's mantle, geologists Damon Teagle of National Oceanography Center in Southampton, England and Benoit Ildefonse from Montpellier University in France say it's time for a second try. And unlike their predecessors, they have the technology to turn that challenging endeavor into a reality.

Unlike flying anywhere in the world or space travel, this journey will take a considerable amount of time.  The search for the potential drill site will begin this spring, with an eye on beginning the project sometime later in the decade.

The goal is to retrieve a sample of the Earth’s mantle, which would supply scientist with a treasure trove of information about our planet’s origins and history.

"A pristine sample of say 500 meters of the upper mantle could liberate answers to these questions and much more," according to Teagle.

The three most likely sites up for consideration include the coasts of Hawaii, Baja California and Costa Rica. Once work gets underway, it will take between 18 months and two years to reach the Earth's mantle.

Scientists first attempted to penetrate the Pacific Oceans crust - in the spring of 1961 - the project had only limited success - it took some core samples from the top part of the ocean's crust near Guadalupe Island in the eastern Pacific Ocean - and Congress canceled its funding five years later.

However, Teagle noted that deep ocean drilling has come a very long way in the last 50 years, largely pursuant to the experience of scientific ocean drilling "and because the offshore petroleum industry has moved into deeper water." He pointed to advances, such as thrusters, transponders and GPS technology, to hold the ship in place in very deep water and allow researchers to routinely re-enter holes to replace drill bits, which typically wear out after about 50 hours of use.

"We also have a much better understanding of what we are trying to do - we have good understanding of how the ocean crust is formed and the difference between the crust and the mantle. However, some details remain elusive," he added.

That's not to say all the technical hurdles have been cleared away. The project will depend on improved drill bits, tools and instruments that can work at very high temperatures of around 300 degrees Celsius.

In publicizing their interest in the journal Nature, Teagle and Ildefonse wrote that while reaching the mantle posed the biggest challenge in the history of Earth It it also offered an extraordinary reward - nothing less than "a legacy of fundamental scientific knowledge, and inspiration and training for the next generation of geoscientists, engineers and technologists."

The intrigue of burrowing into a region still untouched by human exploration is what drives these two men to embark on such a perilous journey.

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