A team of geologists has undertaken an ambitious mission reminiscent of Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, and playing the role of the brilliant Professor Lidenbrock is none other than a Bengali scientist.
Biswajit Ghosh, a 45-year-old member of Calcutta University’s geology department, and his teammates have begun drilling through the ocean crust to the mantle of the earth – the layer just above its core – in an attempt to throw some light on evolution and the origin of life. The project is part of the International Ocean Discovery Programme, which is funded by various countries.
The only Indian in the 25-member team, Ghosh sees the mission – which involves drilling to the mantle of the earth with sophisticated equipment and unlocking the planet’s secrets – as a dream fulfilled. “We have been given a highly sophisticated ship to the do the drilling. The samples are analysed onboard,” he said.
Despite Ghosh’s current position of prominence, his life had a humble beginning. “I hail from Sonarpur, and studied at a local Bengali medium school. This was what I wanted to do all my life… it is a dream come true for any geologist. The 60-day mission started on November 30, 2015, and these 60 days will be the best days of my life,” he said.
The deep-sea drilling project is being undertaken in three legs, and the scientists drill about 2.5 km of the ocean crust in each.
Ghosh has just returned to Kolkata after completing the first leg of the mission. “I play the role of an igneous petrologist, studying igneous rocks. I will go to Japan next month to study the samples. The findings will then be discussed at a review meeting in Sicily,” he said.
The scientist said drilling was undertaken in the southern hemisphere, on the south-east side of the southern tip of Madagascar. “That spot, called Atlantis Bank, was chosen because the ocean crust is the thinnest there,” he added.
The first leg of the project, which was undertaken aboard the Joides Resolution vessel, cost $15 million.