Top 10 Deepest Holes on Earth
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 deepest holes on Earth.
For this list, we’ll be looking at extreme hole-digging technology and the deepest natural and human-made holes found in the Earth’s crust throughout human history.
Do you find deep holes creepy? Let us know in the comments below!
Located in the north of Chile is a massive open-pit mine known as Chuquicamata. Found outside the city of Calama, the area has been mined since the late 1870s for its copper. A huge deposit of copper known as the Exotica deposit was found in 1957, resulting in Chuquicamata eventually becoming the mine with the largest total production of copper in the world. It is currently one of the world’s largest-open pit mines, measuring just under 2.8 miles long, over 2 miles wide, and nearly 3,000 feet deep. The latter measurement makes Chuquicamata the second deepest open pit mine on Earth. The first being the…
#9: Bingham Canyon Mine
Found in the Oquirrh Mountains outside Salt Lake City is the Bingham Canyon Mine - or as the locals call it, the Kennecott Copper Mine (named after the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation). Like Chuquicamata, the Bingham Mine extracts copper. Brothers Sanford and Thomas Bingham first discovered copper in the area back in 1848, and the Utah Copper Company began excavating in 1906. It has since produced nearly 20 million tons, and is thought to be the most productive copper mine in history. Bingham covers nearly 2,000 acres of land, measures 2.5 miles wide, and reaches a depth of 0.75 miles (or nearly 4,000 feet). It is currently the deepest open-pit mine in the world, and viewing it from above is absolutely staggering.
#8: IceCube Neutrino Observatory
Buit at a cost of $279 million, and finished in 2010, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory was created to detect the subatomic particles known as neutrinos. To do so, sensors known as Digital Optical Modules were placed deep under the Antarctic ice at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. To get the sensors underground, workers used a 25,000-pound hose that blasted hot water through the thick ice, effectively melting it and creating holes for the cables. Said holes measure anywhere between 4,750 and over 8,000 feet deep. Or, put another way, the deepest hole at the observatory burrows 1.5 miles into the Antarctic ice. Now that is one powerful hose!
This, of course, is not a hole per se, but a Japanese drilling ship meant to study sub-seafloor environments through the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Interestingly, the ship is supposed to target certain regions known for their heavy seismic activity. It was launched in January of 2002 and, exactly ten years later, in April of 2012, Chikyū officially set a new deep-sea drilling record by reaching a depth of 25,400 feet below sea level. At the time, the ship was located off Japan’s Oshika Peninsula and studying fault samples with the goal of better understanding earthquakes and tsunamis, specifically the ones that occurred the year prior. Chikyū beat the record set by the Glomar Challenger back in 1978, which dug to 23,130 feet in the Mariana Trench.
#6: Geothermal Engineering Ltd
Back in 2018, a company known as Geothermal Engineering began drilling in Cornwall, England hoping to source electricity from the underground hot rocks. The geothermal power station looked to bore two holes into the Cornwall ground, one measuring 1.6 miles, and the other 2.8 miles. Aimed to be completed in just six months, this project broke the record for the deepest hole ever drilled in Cornwall. In 2019, company representatives claimed that the drill had reached a depth of 16,000 feet, equating to 3 miles underground. While there, it experienced temperatures of nearly 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
#5: KTB Borehole
Operating between 1987 and 1995 was a drilling project known as the German Continental Deep Drilling Programme, which resulted in the KTB borehole (the initials of which coming from its native German name). Located near Windischeschenbach, Bavaria, the KTB borehole reached a depth of nearly 30,000 feet — 29,859 to be exact. It hit temperatures of over 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and made numerous scientific discoveries as a result of just how quickly it heated. For example, liquid and gases flooded the drill hole, creating dynamic rock, which proved a surprise to the scientists, who were largely expecting metamorphic rock. The derrick of the KTB borehole remains standing, and serves as a major German tourist destination.
#4: Bertha Rogers
Once the deepest hole in the entire world, the Bertha Rogers well was dug in Washita County, Oklahoma to look for natural gas deposits. Drilled by the Lone Star Producing Company between 1972 and ‘74, the well reached an incredible depth of 31,441 feet, officially setting the world record on April 13, 1974. Drilling officially ceased once the drill pipe was destroyed by a pocket of molten sulfur. And while the depth has since been surpassed, the Bertha Rogers well remains the deepest hole in American soil. Unfortunately, the area was completely abandoned in 1997, with the well ceasing to produce natural gas, and thereby being plugged.
#3: Deepwater Horizon
Built for a whopping $560 million, the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon was leased to BP (The British Petroleum Company), and placed in the Gulf of Mexico. While drilling in Keathley Canyon, off the coast of Texas, the Deepwater Horizon made history by drilling the deepest oil well in the world, at 35,050 feet. The rig discovered the Tiber Oil Field, which is estimated to contain up to 6 billion barrels’ worth of oil. Unfortunately, the Deepwater Horizon set another record just a few months later when a disastrous and fatal blowout caused the biggest oil spill in marine history, reportedly dumping nearly 5 million barrels’ worth of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The record for the deepest oil well set by the Deepwater Horizon didn’t last long. In the Sakhalin region of Russia is the Sakhalin-1 project, which extracts oil and gas off the shore of the eponymous island. Operated by Exxon Neftegas, the Odoptu-11 well reached a length of 40,502 feet on January 28, 2011. Just nineteen months later, Exxon set another world record when the Z-44 Chayvo well reached a length of 40,604 feet. In November 2017, this record was claimed to extend to an astonishing 49,000 feet. This single hole could theoretically fit up to eighteen Burj Khalifas! The Z-44 Chayvo is currently the world’s longest borehole, but not the deepest in terms of true vertical depth. That title goes to...
#1: Kola Superdeep Borehole
Located right near the border of Russia and Norway is the Kola Superdeep Borehole -- an attempt by the USSR to drill as far into the Earth’s crust as possible. In 1979, it became the deepest human-made hole in the world, breaking the record set by the aforementioned Bertha Rogers. And in 1989, it became the deepest artificial point on Earth when it struck a depth of 40,230 feet. It remains the world’s deepest hole in terms of true vertical depth, meaning that it bores straight into the Earth in a perpendicular line. The borehole was expected to reach 49,000 feet, but work was prematurely terminated due to higher-than-expected temperatures and a viscous rock layer that made drilling difficult.