What Happens If You Try To Dig To China?


Narrator: If you want to
get to the opposite end of the world, it’s a hike.
About 20,000 kilometers. But what if you didn’t have
to travel across the surface? What if you could dig straight
through to the other side? If you’re trying to dig
to China from the US, there’s something you should know first. The opposite point on the
planet isn’t in China. It’s somewhere in the
middle of the Indian Ocean. So, to get to China, you should start digging in
either Argentina or Chile. Your first challenge would be digging through the Earth’s crust. It’s the thinnest of
Earth’s three main layers, yet humans have never drilled
all the way through it. As you descend, you’d soon reach the depth of the Paris Catacombs,
the deepest metro station, and the devil worm, the deepest animal we’ve
ever discovered underground. Then, it would start to get hot. At 4,000 meters down,
you’d pass the deepest mine on the planet, which is cooled with ice to make workers comfortable,
because, down here, temperatures are 60 degrees Celsius. By 8,800 meters, you’ll be as
deep as Mt. Everest is tall, but it’s still not the deepest
point humans have ever dug. That point is at the bottom of
the Kola Superdeep Borehole, at 12,260 meters below the surface. Down here, there’s 4,000
times more pressure than at sea level, and temperatures push 180 degrees Celsius, so you’d need a lot of insulation to carry on and keep from melting. At around 40,000 meters,
you’d reach Earth’s second and largest layer, the mantle, which makes up a whopping
84% of the planet’s volume. Near the border, temperatures climb to around
1,000 degrees Celsius, hot enough to melt many metals, like silver, but not a steel drill. And good thing because you’ll need it to drill through the
first part of the mantle, which is made of solid rock, until you reach 100,000 meters, that is, when you might need to
switch to a propeller. Here, the pressure and
temperature are so high that, in some places, rock takes on
a caramel-like consistency. In fact, it’s this rock
that ultimately erupts from volcanoes on the surface. At 150,000 meters, keep your
eyes peeled for diamonds. They form when heat and pressure restructure the
carbon atoms in this region. Once you reach 410,000 meters,
the rock is solid again, so it’s back to the drill. You see, while it’s still plenty hot at this depth to melt rock, the pressure is so
extreme that the molecules inside literally can’t
move into a liquid state. Then, by 3 million meters down, you’d reach Earth’s third
layer, the outer core. Unlike Earth’s crust and mantle, the core is made of iron and nickel. Temperatures here are the same
as the surface of the sun, hot enough to melt all that metal, so, yep, back to the propeller. And it would have to be made out of some kind of supermaterial, because no known element
has a melting point above 6,000 degrees Celsius. Making matters worse, the outer
core also has low gravity, because, when you’re that deep, much of the planet’s
mass is now above you, which produces a gravitational force that pulls away from the center. So to continue, you’d need a super heat-
and pressure-proof submarine that moves like rockets in space by shooting fuel out the back end. You’d soon arrive at the inner core, around 5 million meters below the surface. The inner core is one
giant sphere of solid iron, so it would definitely be
challenging to get through. But if you did find a way, you’d soon hit the halfway point, about 6.4 million meters down, also known as the center of the Earth. Now, there’s nearly the same
amount of mass all around you, pulling you equally in all directions, so there’s zero gravity here. And now is when the trip really
gets hard. The second half. Because as you dig past the inner core, you’d soon feel the pull of gravity again. And this time, it’d be
pulling you from above, where the majority of Earth’s mass is now. So while you might be digging down, relative to where you started, it’ll feel like you’re climbing up. And if you didn’t have those
handy rockets propelling you, you’d fall right back to the core. But 6.4 million meters later, after powering through impenetrable iron, molten alloy, and solid and mushy rock, you’d arrive, at long last,
on the other side, in China. That would certainly come as a relief, but it wouldn’t even be the best part. Assuming you left a tunnel
through the center of the Earth behind you, you’d now be
able to travel back and forth between China and
Argentina in under an hour, simply by jumping in. To learn why, check out
another video we made about jumping through
the center of the Earth.

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