For 20 years, Russian scientists and engineers drilled deeper and deeper, hoping to uncover whatever mysteries the hole may hold, earning it the ominous nickname of “The Well to Hell.” What would happen if — for whatever reason — you fell into this hole?
What would happen to your body? How deep would you fall? And what would you find at the bottom?
So, you managed to take the plunge. You’ll start plummeting at almost 10 m/sec (33 ft/sec), and every second after that, it gets faster.
If we take terminal velocity out of the mix, and assume you weigh 80 kgs (176 lbs), you’d eventually reach a speed of 490 m/sec (1,608 ft/sec). So as you fall deeper and deeper, what would happen to your body?
Falling at such a high speed, you’ll start to notice things getting a little toasty as your heart rate starts to elevate, and panic sets in. You might find it getting a little harder to breathe. Why?
At 150 m (492 ft) your poor lungs would be getting crushed by the constantly increasing air pressure. You might also encounter what cave explorers like to call “foul air” – deadly underground pockets of carbon dioxide.
Great! Things can’t get much worse, can they?
Yeah, they can. Less than 3 km (2 miles) into the trip, you’re going to see your skin start to burn up. Literally.
And as you continue to fall, it only gets hotter and hotter. This is because you’re being pulled closer to the gravitational center of Earth, and its molten core, which is baking the planet from the inside out.
A temperature of 80°C (176°F) can severely burn a person’s skin in less than a second. At this point in the hole, you’re feeling heat of over 180°C (356°F).
On the bright side, you’ve probably already passed out. When you fall out of a plane you can pass out from lack of air, but wake up as oxygen becomes more available – and catch a glimpse of the ground just as you smack into it.
But Down here, you’re not waking up. Okay, so things don’t look good.
But, let’s say you came prepared and wore an atmospheric diving suit to help with the increasing pressure as you fell. It’s heavy, but it will help with that breathing problem.
In 2016, Luke Aikens jumped from 7,620 m (25,000 ft) without a parachute, and survived without a scratch. Granted, he landed in a net. If he’s allowed to have one, you can too.
So you land in the net. Great! Including your terminal velocity, you have successfully managed to free fall 12 km (7.5 mi) straight down at a speed of 200 km/h (124 mph).
How long were you falling? Well, factoring in air resitance and terminal velocity, the whole trip took just over three minutes.
And now you’ve got to get back out. In 2018, Alex Honnold managed to scale Yosemite National Park’s 914-meter-tall (3,000 feet) El Capitan granite wall, without ropes, in just under four hours.
Granted, he wasn’t wearing a huge suit like you are. This big outfit wouldn’t help you climb. And you would need some climbing equipment, to help you get a better grip on the walls of the hole.
So, what’s it like down there? To answer that, let’s flashback to 1971, in the Kola Peninsula of northwest Russia, to be exact. When Russia began work on the Kola Superdeep Borehole.
Measuring in at just over 12 km (7.5 mi) deep, the Kola Superdeep Borehole is the deepest hole humankind has managed to dig on Earth. Team Kola had managed to break the world record for drilling depth, trying to get a leg up on the U.S. during the Cold War.
Eventually, they encountered temperatures of 180 degrees (356°F), which melted their equipment. So the hole was capped in 1992. Here’s hoping they left the lid open for you.
When you’re at the bottom, you’d find things are warm, to say the least, not to mention your body would be dealing with air pressure equal to 54 elephants perched on top of your head, weighing in at a whoping 378 tons! Talk about a headache. At least you could admire the 2.7 billion year old rock.
So could something like this happen? Who knows?
To be honest, we’re still trying to figure out the equipment requirements for digging this deep, let alone finding someone crazy enough to take the plunge. Luckily, the hole only has a diameter of 23 cm (9 inches,) so it’s too narrow for you to trip into.
But if you did decide to dive in, you could argue that all it would take is for someone else to try it first, and spark the desire to out-do each other. After all, that’s a primary reason the Kola hole exists in the first place.
Even with it’s record breaking depth, the Kola Superdeep Borehole is only a fraction of the thickness of the Earth’s crust. But it does make you think about what humans are capable of. Could we, maybe, dig tunnels between continents?
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- “What Is Terminal Velocity? – Universe Today”. FRASER CAIN, 2010. Universe Today. Accessed December 12 2019.
- “US skydiver jumps without parachute into net from 25,000ft”. 2019. BBC News. Accessed December 12 2019.
- “The Free Fall Research Page: Falling Math”. 2019. greenharbor.com. Accessed December 12 2019.
- “World’s deepest hole dubbed ‘well to hell’ plunges 12,000 metres and is only covered by ‘rusty lid’”. 2019. Newscomau. Accessed December 12 2019.
- “Journey To The Centre Of The Earth”. Future, BBC. 2019. bbc.com/future. Accessed December 12 2019.