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The Journey to the Earth's Core

The Experience of Journeying to the Earth's Core: What Would It Be Like?

By Bayu SetyawanPublished 28 days ago 5 min read
Earth's Core

What's the most exotic destination you've ever been to? Hawaii? Australia? Hoboken, New Jersey? Well, today, I'm setting off on a journey that's way more unusual than that—down to the Earth's core. And I'm inviting you to join me—are you ready? Ah, come on, it'll be fun. Let's go!

The center of the Earth lies about 4,000 miles below its surface, so it’s going to be a long trip. The layer we're smashing through right now is the crust. It’s like the skin of an apple when you compare it to the other layers that make up the Earth. Except you can't bite off a piece! Hey, look at that rabbit—these cuties dig tunnels up to 2 feet deep, so I'm not surprised to meet one here. And gross, was that an earthworm? Some deep-burrowing types, also known as night crawlers, can live 10 feet below the surface.

Moving on—did you hear that beeping sound? That must be a metal detector. A good one still works at this depth. But you're not likely to find any gold; maybe a large piece of metal, like a car or something. And this must be the Mole Man burrow! Seriously, there was a guy in London who dug for 40 years under his house and stopped at 26 feet. What was he looking for?

Remember how I said the crust wasn't that thick? It’s roughly 21 miles thick and is made up of basaltic rocks under the sea and granitic rocks on the continents. There’s oceanic crust and continental crust. Whoa, was that a crocodile? Nile crocodiles dig the deepest burrows among animals, so you can find them 39 feet underground. Apparently, not only crocodiles feel the desire to hide from the rest of the world—there are whole underground cities with shelters and catacombs in different countries. The deepest of them lies 278 feet under Cappadocia in Turkey, with 18 levels that could house 20,000 people!

How would they all get there? Today, they could just catch a train at the world's deepest metro station in Kiev, Ukraine, lying at 348 feet. While people have advanced technologies these days to dig this deep, trees naturally grow this way; in South Africa, some species have roots reaching up to 400 feet below the surface!

I'm currently moving through continental crust. It’s about 2 billion years old, even though the oldest rock is 4 billion years old, found on the shore of Hudson Bay, Canada. Continental crust covers about 40 percent of the Earth, with the rest being oceanic crust. The granitic rocks that make it up have more silicon, aluminum, and oxygen than basaltic rocks because they have access to open air on the surface. The crust is the source of all the metals and minerals humans have ever used, except for diamonds, which are much deeper. I think we'll spot them later... do you have pockets?

What was that? People in running gear? As crazy as it sounds, in 2004, a half-marathon was organized in the Bochnia Salt Mine in Poland. It was the deepest half-marathon ever—at 695 feet deep. Nothing can surprise me now—except maybe bats! A thousand brown bats spend every winter in a New York zinc mine—how cozy!

Brrr, it’s getting cold—this is the deepest point where you can find permafrost, or permanently frozen soil layers. Speaking of frost, the Earth’s crust serves as an electric blanket that covers the mantle. It’s rich in the radioactive elements uranium, thorium, and potassium, which produce heat!

Moving on—this looks like a good hiding spot—the deepest cave in the world is the Veryovkina Cave in Georgia (the country, not the state), at about 1.4 miles below the ground. And was that a train I heard? It couldn’t be until 2016, when the deepest and longest underground railway, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened in Switzerland!

Just when you think you couldn’t possibly meet any other living beings down here—here comes the worm from the TauTona mine in South Africa, the deepest multicellular organism. Speaking of mines, the deepest among them is the Mponeng Gold Mine, at 2.5 miles, also in South Africa.

While I’m moving through continental crust, the oceanic crust is never too far, averaging 4.3 miles in depth. It covers around 60 percent of the Earth's surface, and is thinner (around 12 miles), denser, and younger (no older than 180 million years) than the continental crust. It's constantly being born at mid-ocean ridges, and that’s what makes the continents move. At 7 miles deep, you have your final chance to see the ocean on this trip—we've just reached the Mariana Trench, the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean. To give you an idea of how unique and special this moment is: fewer people have been here than to the Moon.

Traveling through the crust was fun, but it had to end at some point. Here comes the border where they don’t stamp your passport—the boundary between the crust and the mantle. It's the largest section of the Earth, at 1,801 miles wide. It’s made of magma rock and is heavy, making up 65 percent of the Earth’s mass. It stores many archaeological secrets and is composed of four elements: oxygen, silicon, magnesium, and iron. Even though it's basically solid rock, the mantle is slowly and constantly moving.

What was that bling? It must be remnants of diamonds formed here, at 93 miles deep, a billion years ago. Then, as molten rock, they moved up to the surface. The pressure is getting more extreme, and it’s getting colder and colder down here. This is the deepest point where earthquakes are born—the ones that come from here are rare and get pretty weak by the time they’ve traveled 435 miles up to the surface.

Another 30 miles down on this journey, and here comes the lower mantle. You can thank it for any tectonic plate movements. Why is it getting so hot? Wow, that was a serious change of landscape! At 1,814 miles deep, the mantle ends and the outer core begins. It’s a sunless sea of super-hot liquid metal about the size of Mars. This sea has slow-moving currents and magnetic and electrical fields that produce storms and cyclones. By the way, the Earth owes its magnetic field to the outer core. Without it, life on our planet would be impossible! Once every several thousand years, something happens in this layer: the magnetic poles reverse, and north and south change places. It’s not likely to happen again soon, though.

At 2,750 miles, the inner core welcomes you! It’s the hottest, innermost part of the planet. It’s a super-dense solid ball made of 80 percent iron and 20 percent nickel that heats up to 10,800°F! That’s pretty much the same as the surface of the Sun. The inner core is nearly the size of the Moon and makes up 2 percent of the Earth’s mass. If you took all the water in all the oceans and multiplied it by five, this would be roughly the same as the volume of the inner core. It remains solid thanks to super-high.

Science

About the Creator

Bayu Setyawan

Hallo, I am a sales representative at Samsung Electronics Indonesia, blending industry expertise and creativity to craft compelling stories, insightful articles, engaging content, and inspiring through powerful and captivating narratives!

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    Bayu SetyawanWritten by Bayu Setyawan

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