A Vast Ocean Inside the Earth

January 7, 2016

Scientific theories are often repeated and summarized so often that we forget they are merely “theories,” and not facts. When you think of “the center of the Earth,” you probably picture the classic diagram from your high-school science textbook showing a cross-section of the Earth’s layers like those of an onion: the crust, the upper mantle, the lower mantle, the outer core, and the inner core.

Many people take this as simple, clear fact. But humankind has only penetrated about 8 miles into the Earth; it’s about 4,000 miles to the core. We’ve filled in some 3,992 miles with theories.

Of course, the theories have good reasoning behind them. They are based on the geological phenomena we have observed. Yet a discovery made in 2014 is exemplary of how our planet may be a lot different than we generally think.

University of Alberta Professor Graham Pearson led an international team of scientists in analyzing a cheap diamond that yielded priceless insights.

His team paid about $20 for a diamond found by artisan miners in the Juina area of Mata Grosso, Brazil, in 2008. Inside the brownish diamond, they accidentally found a mineral called ringwoodite while looking for a different mineral.

Ringwoodite had been found in meteorites before, but this was the first time it was found in Earth. The ringwoodite was significant because water was trapped inside it, and it was formed about 250 to 350 miles below the planet’s surface—the so-called “transition zone” between the upper and lower mantle.

This suggests there’s an ocean inside the Earth. And that ocean “might have as much water as all the world’s oceans put together,” said Pearson in a University of Alberta news release.

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