Screams from the Earth?
Pouring cold water on a hot ‘urban myth’
There is a remarkable story doing the rounds of Christian circles via tracts, preaching and radio broadcasts. It concerns the Soviet effort to drill the world’s deepest hole to study the earth’s crust.
The story’s origins are difficult to trace, and details vary slightly, but the essential features are:
- After going only a few miles down, the drill began to spin wildly. A ‘Doctor Azzakov’ (sometimes Azzarov) is quoted as stating authoritatively that it has been shown that the earth is hollow.
- Immensely high temperatures were experienced, much higher than expected at that depth. Usually 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,100 degrees Celsius is quoted.
- Microphones were lowered into the hole (to ‘listen to the earth’s movement’). Human screams were heard—hordes of ‘tortured souls’.
- Many of the scientists have quit the project in fear and/or have become total nervous wrecks.
There is no doubt that the hole referred to ‘in distant Siberia’ is the Kola Peninsula borehole in the Soviet Arctic, the world’s deepest. It is obvious what this story is trying to imply. Apart from the highly dubious notion that disembodied spirits (without lungs or vocal cords) emit ordinary sound waves transmitted through air, the story is without foundation for other sound reasons.
- An earth that was largely hollow would clearly be evident from seismic (earthquake) studies, as well as from orbital/gravitational considerations. Such is not the case.
- Beginning in 1970, the Kola hole project, by 1984, had already reached 12,000 metres (around seven-and-a-half miles). The results have been followed with intense interest by the scientific community around the globe, and the drill bit was (not surprisingly) still encountering rock at that depth.
- Far from being a ‘fiery inferno’, the temperature increased by one degree Celsius every 100 metres to 3,000 metres, then by 2.5 degrees every 100 metres thereafter. At 10,000 metres (more than six miles) it was a mere 180 degrees !
No Peephole into Hell!
Similar mythologies crop up from time to time. They probably grow beyond recognition in the telling, and are passed on by well-meaning Christians who, like us, believe in the full truth of the Word of God concerning such matters as final judgment. However, the Bible neither teaches that the earth is flat, nor that it is stationary, nor indeed hollow. Neither does it teach that by drilling into it one may gain a peephole into Hell.
A myth is usually based on a nucleus of truth. In this case, the ‘inferno’ idea may have come from the fact that geologists expected the one degree per 100 metres rate to continue far deeper, hence the temperature was indeed ‘hotter than expected’.
It is highly likely that the high temperature figures quoted in the ‘screams from the earth’ story were from a misunderstanding of the scientific reports. Similar temperatures were reported in the literature on the Kola drillhole—but they referred to the theoretical temperature at which the metamorphic rocks found in drill samples were presumed to have originally formed, not to the actual temperatures found.
The ‘spinning wildly’ story may have been based on the fact (of great interest to creation geologists pondering the early history of the earth, especially the nature of the ‘fountains of the great deep’ released at the Flood) that the water content of the crust was much greater than expected. There were some small flows of gas, and large amounts of hot, mineralized water encountered. Between 4,500 and 9,000 metres down, these unexpectedly high amounts of water at huge pressures had ‘shattered’ the host rocks, making them several times more porous than usual.
It is a pity that such stories can gain a foothold, but we hope our comments here will be helpful in assessing this tale of ‘screams from the earth’.
- Bob White, ‘The deepest hole in the world’, New Scientist, April 18, 1985, p. 23.
- Ye. A. Kozlovsky, ‘The world’s deepest well’, Scientific American 251(6), December 1984, pp. 106-112.