SEATTLE — Oceanographers hope to learn more about the structure of the Earth with the help of a new portable drill to bore holes in the ocean floor.
"It's a tool that we've needed badly," said Don Pryor, part of a federal team exploring the economic potential of the ocean floor. "This new drill will give us the opportunity to get cores from the deep sea, which we simply have had no means of getting before."
The new drill, to be built in August, takes advantage of state-of-the art mining technology and laboratory drilling techniques. It can operate as deep as 18,000 feet and was designed to be handled with a 0.68-inch cable, standard on research ships, that is strong enough to lift the one-ton rig. Placement will be controlled by a sonic-navigation network and a remote TV camera.
$500,000 in Grants
The drill was developed by Mike Williamson, a marine consultant, who got a small National Science Foundation grant in 1982 for preliminary designs. Five subsequent attempts to finance a prototype failed but a sixth, with University of Washington oceanographer Paul Johnson, won a $400,000 grant from the NSF and another $100,000 from the Office of Naval Research.