Here’s What the Earth Sounds Like Six Miles Below Ground

By Breanna Draxler | January 6, 2014 2:55 pm
Drill tower of the main borehole at Bortum-Erbendorf.

Drill tower of the main borehole at Bortum-Erbendorf. Image credit: W.J.Pilsak/wikimedia commons

When it comes to understanding the Earth’s geology, many researchers are just scratching the surface. Literally. With drills and picks and axes.

But in Germany, a decades-old drilling site lets scientists (and one Dutch artist) go much deeper—nearly 6 miles below the surface. And they’ve brought up a guttural voice from deep inside the Earth.

Drilling of the KTB borehole began in the late 1980s in a region of southern Germany called the Zone von Erbendorf-Vohenstrauß—the line where two ancient landmasses once merged to become the supercontinent Pangaea. The geology was bound to be interesting here, but even geologists were surprised by what they saw.

Inside the Earth

As described in Gizmodo, scientists discovered

shifting seismic plates, boiling hydrogen, and temperatures reaching 600 degrees Fahrenheit….The deep-drilling experiment yielded huge surprises about the structure of the earth, including maps of rock temperature, new information about seismic pressure, and beautiful models that show layers of rock wrapped around each other like ribbons—illustrating how the crust is far from a neat layer cake.

The drilling shut down due to lack of funding in the 1990s, but research has continued since then to paint a picture of this underground landscape. And in the last year, a Dutch artist named Lotte Geeven decided the emerging image needed a soundtrack, too.

Geeven worked with scientists and sound engineers to give voice to the subterranean world. She recorded sounds and took seismic readings at the borehole’s base. There doesn’t appear to be any explicit description of what the groaning and moaning sounds actually are (perhaps seismic waves adjusted to be audible to the human ear, suggests The Verge) but they are certainly worth a listen.

Without further ado, here’s what it sounds like in the deepest accessible hole in the world:

Video credit: Lotte Geeven via Gizmodo

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • Charles-A Rovira

    Look for a new recording using this as a background from Björk.

    • jamaicajoe

      Yes she would definitely have a field day with this stuff.

  • eleventh

    It’s the sound of Silurians, watch out !

  • chris sulit

    As if something is constantly on fire or boiling down there!

  • kurtoot

    Really it’s good work. ….as my opinion there’s fire near by……

  • bluesojourn

    So, 6 miles down isn’t just “scratching the surface?”

  • wally58

    Is the molten temp in the Earth’s bowels leftover heat from the “creation” spin off from the Sun or is it from the centrifugal forces at work from the friction created by being both in orbit and rotating at the same time? I say it the last example as heat from 4.5 Billion years ago would have long since dissipated by now.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Stevens

      It’s caused by the heat produced as a by-product of the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements deep within the earth. But for that heat, the earth’s interior would have cooled off, despite all of the other sources of heat, over the four plus billion years since it first condensed.

      • Douglas J. Bender

        But the Earth’s interior would not have cooled off, despite all of the other sources of heat, over the six-plus thousand years since it first was created.

    • gozer_destructor

      The Earth originally got its heat from accretion during formation (a bunch of already hot stuff heating up more during impact) and friction caused by density settling after formation (stuff getting heated from sliding past other stuff as they separated out by density). Most of the heat should have dissipated by now but radioactive decay helps keep it warm. There are also other, newer theories of why the Earth is still as hot as it is but they are a bit over my head and from what I understand, not yet as accepted as the ones stated.

  • gibbon

    its obviously alive

  • judith Vandermeer

    Ahhh the heartbeat of Mother Earth… Wow

  • warbaby

    There you go, and people are wondering why we have sinkholes.

  • Tom Omaz Murray

    The sound reminds me of a rocket launch as heard from several miles away. Maybe its the sound of a Chinese missile launch?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mrs Scott-hunt

    Morlocks!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mike Rath

    Hmmmm, sounds like my stomach!

    • Olive D

      The earth and our stomachs were all part of the sun once… imagine what it sounds like up there! Tums, anyone?

  • colindenronden

    It’s Hitler groaning in Hell as he’s being dragged along by that silly little moustache through a gauntlet of millions of murdered Jews, all kicking him in the testicles.

  • brotherrolf

    Roaring flames of Hell?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Dave Parta

    I can make that same sound by blowing into an empty bottle!

  • johndouglasdahl@gmail.com

    gees, whale songs now pacha mama. leave it to the artists and psychics and hippies/yuppies/greenearthers. pleeeeseeeee. i don’t think i want to deal with this stuff

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