Life With Dinosaurs
Can you imagine a world where dinosaurs and humans live together? Sharing food and using them as transportation? No one really knows what life with dinosaurs could be like. The possibilities are endless.
But thanks to science, we can imagine what it would be like to have a T-Rex run freely. Would they play catch with your neighbors or would it result in tragedy?
The Chicxulub crater has been around for 66million years and plunges 12 miles into the ground. By the time Joanna Morgan, a professor at Imperial College London became involved, most experts agreed that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs and that it landed in Mexico.
But the debate still raged over the size of the Chicxulub crater. The fact still remains, something huge hit earth and created a crater the size of the moon, and somehow the size seemed to scare scientists more than its destruction.
In 1996, Morgan began a three-month study of the site which was the first of its kind. Her team towed a large air gun behind a research vessel, blasting the seafloor with seismic waves that would bounce back, revealing a clearer picture of the crater.
The main focus of the research seemed to be on the size rather than the impact, dinosaurs, and the depth of the hole than on the fact that debris from space once made contact with earth and may have possibly changed everything.
Experts estimate that an asteroid or comet, ranging in size from 6.8 to 50.3 in diameter, smashed into earth at this very spot. The Chicxulub crater has an estimated diameter of 93 miles.
To paint a picture that will make you understand the magnitude of it, it is 1.6 miles shorter than the drive between New York City and Philadelphia. Scientists explained the size, distance, and depth of the crater, but still shy away from telling us what we were all thinking, did the stones contain diamonds?
Experts have been able to calculate the strength of the space rock when it smashed into earth. They estimated that the asteroid or comet had 21 to 921 billion times as much energy as the atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima in World War II.
An impact that strong, fast, and powerful would have destroyed anything in seconds, basically the dinosaurs stood no chance, however, the impact was so instant that they also felt nothing. All they probably saw was a flash of light and silence.
The Magnificent Crater
The impact site as Marine geophysicist Sean P.S Gulick explained how rare the peak ring feature is, he says that ‘Chicxulub is the only crater on earth with an intact ring that we can go and sample, it is ground zero of the Cretaceous extinction event’.
And a surprising, yet terrifying, discovery followed.
A Giant Magnet
However due to its dimension it is the second largest impact crater on earth, just after the one near Vredefort in South Africa. One might even deduce that earth might be a giant magnet to comets, just orbiting around waiting for the third one to hit.
But the secrets of Chicxulub were only discovered recently.
The Crater Discovery
In reality, Chicxulub crater was relatively recently discovered. Even though it has been around for millions of years. It was only in 1978 that geophysicists Glen Penfield and Antonio Carmago stumbled upon the crater when they were searching for petroleum, so they were looking for oil, but ended up discovering something else.
If you think about it, most historic discoveries happened by chance, nobody went digging for relics, and they just discovered them.
This strange discovery inspired Penfield to dig deeper. He then commissioned a gravity map from his employer in the 1960s. Penfield noticed something rare about the map and his magnetic survey. When the two were put together, Penfield realized that the two arcs made a circle.
Because of this, Penfield had realized that he had discovered something spectacular. He had finally found an important point in history, the day the comet created the big bang and life as we know it.
Discovery Of Discoveries
Penfield decided to give up on his research, but as he was getting ready to call it quits, Joanna Morgan and her team were getting ready to find the answers they were looking for. Morgan wanted to collect seismic data.
So her next plan was to drill Chicxulub. In order for her to do this, she needed the approval of the International Ocean Discovery Program and a global collaboration of marine research, for money to collect deep cores. However, her proposal was sidelined due to her huge budget request.
Most researchers agree that the asteroid struck earth 66 million years ago and wiped out most of the dinosaurs and life before. However, another theory showed that dinosaurs were actually dying off before impact.
In 2016 a never-ending debate erupted which explained that, as new dinosaurs evolved, some were declining. Most dinosaur species were dying out and not reaching evolution as they assumed.
In conclusion of this research, scientists found that some large plant-eating dinosaurs started dying 50 million years before the Chicxulub, so much for the big bad scary comet being the big bang of extinction.
Fossils from New Mexico and Colorado show that the doomsday asteroid of 66million years ago may have caused the extinction of forests. However, in research published last year, Joanna Morgan put that idea to the test by setting pine needles to fire and found that the thermal pulse from impact couldn’t ignite the kind of global canopy-replacing wildfires.
Morgan’s version of events reduced sunlight and debris as the cause of the plants drying out and dying. In short, the sun, the speed of debris created friction and new plants emerged and learned how to survive in those climate conditions.
Another study was done on well-preserved Cretaceous ecosystems in Antarctica and found two temperature spikes, including a larger one before the impact. Scientists pin the initial warming on staggering volcanic eruptions that created India’s Deccan Traps around the same time.
However, critics say the fossil record is not complete enough for such an analysis. The take from this is that dinosaurs stood no chance regardless of whether the comet hit or not, they were doomed but also not so doomed.
Morgan and her team concluded as follows once they concluded their seismic data. A gigantic cosmic rock crashed into the ground, instantly creating a crater that was 60miles wide and 20miles into the earth.
The initial impact created waves in the nearby gulf and in the same breath as fire was forming, a tsunami formed, charging in the opposite direction of the new crater.
Can you imagine the horror of it all? Thanks to Hollywood, we got a glimpse of that terror in the movie, 2012.
However, thanks to science, we now have a clear account of how dinosaurs were wiped out of existence. And, thanks to Russian scientists, we also have new insights into the earth’s crust.
The further they drilled down towards the earth’s core, the more they felt their heartbeat race. This wasn’t right. They looked nervously at each other. Tensions were rising as were the monitors’ warning signs.
The borehole had surprised them so many times before, maybe it will do the same now. But they had no idea that the mystery they were uncovering wasn’t meant to be disturbed.
Scientists And Researchers
At the remote Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia, the air was full of thrill and triumph in their competition to beat America in the race towards the earth’s core.
It was an exciting time for the team of Russian scientists and researchers as they began to peel back the earth’s mysteries layer by layer. But they had no idea that what they’d discover would put a terrifying end to their mission.
They stood wide-eyed as they overlooked the scene unfolding on the operations camera, and raced to hit the emergency stop button, but it was too late. The site has been abandoned ever since.
Their mission was simple: they were going to drill as close as possible to the earth’s crust. They aimed to reach a depth of 49,000 feet, but they never would.
Currently, the hole remains roughly a third of the way through the Baltic Continental crust at 40,230 feet or 7.5 miles deep. It is known as the deepest borehole in the world, but it’s mysteries are still being analyzed and feared today.
Before the Kola borehole was drilled, scientists could only hypothesize about what lay beneath the earth’s surface. Still, they thought they had a pretty good idea of what to expect. But they were wrong.
When the Russian team first started drilling in 1970, they never could have imagined their findings would have them running from their mission, abandoning their life’s work and sealing it within the ground forever.
During the Cold War era, the space race stole all the spotlight, but this subterranean race was equally important and exciting, a fact echoed when they uncovered their first discovery.
Previously, scientists used seismic waves to gather information about the earth’s composition. They discovered an interruption somewhere between three to six kilometers below the surface and believed that a transition in rock type was the cause, i.e. from granite to basalt.
However, the team found no change in rock type. Instead, they discovered granite rock continued to the core but went through some kind of metamorphic change. It was the first of many puzzling discoveries to follow.
As the team of scientists and researchers daily monitored their findings and managed the huge operation, they speculated about what they might find in the samples of earth they’d uncover.
Talks of pre-historic creatures, or ancient organisms filled their curious minds. But in all their excitement, they failed to consider the real dangers of a mission of this callabre. It was their first mistake.
From Strange To Stranger
Things started to get stranger once they drilled past their first major discovery of the metamorphic change within the granite rock. Now, the team was backtracking in their confidence and expertise about what they were doing. Now, they were truly digging into a world unknown.
The drill reached fractured rock and then broke through to free flowing water. They were several miles beneath the surface. According to science, what they were seeing wasn’t possible.
It was a mystery that sent ripples of shock throughout the science community, and confirmed how little we still know about our own earth. However, some scientists were quick to affirm that the water’s presence was proof of ancient, biblical floods.
Now, it’s believed that the mysterious water consists of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that were squeezed out of surrounding rocks by astronomical pressure, now forever trapped. Or so they thought.
The scientists described the mud that came out of the superdeep borehole as “boiling” with hydrogen. This large quantity of hydrogen gas was something that once again took the scientist by complete surprise.
As they got closer to the earth’s center, the team discovered their most exciting findings of the mission before disaster struck. Findings that were over two billion years old!
About four miles beneath the surface, the team detected microscopic plankton fossils in rocks that were over two billion years old! These “microfossils” somehow survived the extreme conditions that existed so far beneath the earth’s surface. Furthermore, they represented about 24 ancient species.
A discovery that was nearly as mind-blowing as their final discovery that made them abandon the mission at once.
The further the team drilled towards the earths crust, the more they could feel the tensions rise. Each kilometre became a nail-bitter. The borehole had surprise them so many times now that they had no idea would they were getting themselves into.
It was when they were looking at the monitors, detailing 40,230 feet below the ground that things took a drastic turn.
The temperature began to rise unexpectedly and then skyrocketed. What they expected to be a temperature reading of 212 degrees Fahrenheit shot into a reading of 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their heavy machinery was rendered useless in that environment and the operation immediately turned volatile. The team raced to hit the emergency breaks on the operation, fearing the worst.
Luckily, they stopped the machinery before any serious damage could be done. Knowing that they had gone as far as possible, they sealed the hole shut with a rusted metal cap, permanently burrying it’s mysteries back within the ground forever.
Since then, it has remained abandoned and untouched for 28 years. But that doesn’t mean the mission to explore the underworld has stopped too.
The Search Continues
The search to discover what lies beneath our feet is still actively being explored by the International Discovery Programme that delves deep beneath the freezing Antarctic ocean’s floor.
There, they face even more challenges as they battle extreme pressures and temperatures in an attempt to explain the unsolved mysteries of this earth we call home.