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SUBMARINE RESCUE POSSIBILITIES
After the Thresher accident, I took part in the work of the Deep Submergence Systems Review Group. At that time we could not provide rescue for a submarine disabled on the bottom with its crew aboard in depths much greater than 500 feet. The Mohole platform in an emergency or one like it would be capable of lifting a submarine from the bottom to shallow depth where rescue could be accomplished. It could also be used for various other purposes requiring placing or removing heavy objects from the sea floor.
Now I would like to consider the feasibility of delay or stretchout. Some have suggested that slowing down the project for a year or so would conserve funds. I cannot see any reasonable way in which this could be done without killing the project entirely.
INCREASED COSTS ON DELAY
Most of next year's budget is for construction of the drilling vessel. One can't build a ship slowly without greatly increasing cost, nor can one stop building a ship and restart again without greatly increasing cost.
Perhaps the most discouraging aspect of stoppage would be loss of a team of engineers, scientists, and subcontractors. Once dispersed, it would take years to build a team and much of the experience gained in the last few years would be lost in the process. Aside from the high cost, to stop for 18 months that, for example, would probably set the project back about 5 years.
SUMMARY OF BENEFITS
Let me conclude by attempting briefly to summarize a few of the critical considerations that convince me of the importance of the Mohole project to our country.
First of all let me touch upon the scientific considerations that have led me and my colleagues to work for almost a decade toward this goal.
No matter how long we attempt to probe the interior of the earth from its surface by indirect methods, we will never have a full or confident comprehension of its composition. A vast amount of laboratory research is going on in the country today and a large variety of hypothetical chemical and mineralogical compositions of the earth's mantle. So long as there is this variety of choice, there is a great waste of effort involved.
It would be extremely helpful if we could combine our research to the real earth. If, for example, we knew more about the distribution of such minor elements as potassium, uranium, and thorium, the main sources of radioactive heat, we could get some hold on the dynamics of the earth's interior. The energy for earthquakes and volcanism goes back ultimately to thermal sources. Convection caused by heating the deeper part of the mantle results in drifting of continents and the opening up of the Atlantic Ocean in the last 200 million years.
The slow leakage of gases from within the earth to the surface has given us our atmosphere over the 4/2 billion years of the planet's history. The atmospheric gases as you see them today are modified by photosynthesis and a variety of chemical reactions such as the extraction of Co, to form limestone. It is probable that the gases still left in the mantle are representative of those which, from the beginning of time, have been providing our atmosphere. Its history and initial composition bear heavily on the problem of the chemical beginnings and evolution of life on earth.
The metals of our ore deposits ultimately came from the mantle. Understanding their concentrations in mantle materials would develop a better idea of the processes by which they are removed and finally form deposits in the crust. It may well turn out that our exploitation of such resources will be markedly enhanced by such knowledge and understanding
Second, let me recapitulate some technological and engineering aspects. As you know, the bulk of the costs of the Mohole project stem from the drilling platform. This is truly a pioneering engineering and industrial enterprise. It represents a tool of marked and revolutionary capabilities whose values relate not only to scientific studies but to our general interest from an industrial point of view in deep drilling. At the same time such a tool gives us certain capabilities at sea-for example, its possible value in submarine rescues and satellite tracking operations which I touched upon earlier.
Finally, it seems to me that we have gone so far in this undertaking that economy suggests that the national interest is best served by continuing with this endeavor. I am personally convinced that sooner or later this Nation will pursue this program. Because we already have an appreciable investment in the Mohole project at the present time, it would seem wise to take advantage of that and to press on vigorously for reasons of economy as well as science and engineering. It is worth noting that the drilling vessel will represent a national facility having a lifetime of some 20 years.
Senator MAGNUSON. Thank vou, Dr. Hess.
THICKNESS OF EARTH'S CRUST
Senator MAGNUSON. Maybe you can answer this question for me. I should know, having listened to the Mohole project for many years around here, but is the crust of the earth thinner under the ocean?
Dr. Hess. Much thinner.
Dr. Hess. Yes; it is 20 miles under the land and 312 under the ocean's surface.
Senator MAGNUSON. The crust gets thicker when it gets to land so drilling on land would require
Dr. HESS. 100,000 feet.
Senator MAGNUSON. 100,000 feet, whereas in the ocean it would require less?
Dr. HESS. 17,000 feet.
Senator Magnuson. 17,000 feet. How do you know that crust is thinner?
Dr. Hess. This is by seismograph.
Senator MAGNUSON. In the crust?
Dr. Hess. No, we make little explosions and measure the sound velocities and this way we get that information.
Senator MAGNUSON. Is that true only in this particular place where they contemplate Mohole?
Dr. Hess. No; all over.
Dr. Hess. That is correct. We pick the place where we think it is thinnest. We might have 5 miles to go in many places.
Senator MAGNUSON. But you think it is the thinnest where they contemplate doing it?
Dr. Hess. The thinnest we have been able to find.
Dr. Hess. That is the thinnest we have found, but I think maybe we could find a thinner one if we looked long enough, but not this good. It is the best one that has been discovered so far.
WEATHER AND WATER CONDITIONS
Senator MAGNUSON. The sea conditions are not too bad there?
Dr. Hess. Pretty good compared to the other sites we looked at off Puerto Rico.
Senator MAGNUSON. Better than the Atlantic?
Senator MAGNUSON. And South Atlantic or South Pacific? I have been all over that area in a ship, but I have never been below the surface yet. During the war we were there a great deal. The weather conditions are not too bad.
Dr. Hess. Pretty good. You hardly ever get over 30-knot winds.
RELATION TO EARTHQUAKE ZONE
Senator MAGNUSON. However, all through that area, is also what we out in the West consider an earthquake zone.
Dr. Hess. Not out near Hawaii. We are pretty far from there.
USE OF SNAP IN MOHOLE PROGRAM
Senator MAGNUSON. Its use on a platform would be great, wouldn't it, if we could have that nuclear plant anchored someplace for all kinds of sonar and traffic devices?
Dr. Hess. Yes. I was thinking of a little one you might put in the hole to put your power at the bottom.
Senator MAGNUSON. That is what we are trying to develop, as small as we can.
Dr. Hess. Very small ones you could get inside a 9-inch hole.
Senator MAGNUSON. Yes; you might be able to do it. They are making great progress on it. Senator Allott, do you have some questions?
CONCERN OVER RISE IN Cost Senator ALLOTT. Does the fantastic rise in the cost of this research project cause you any concern, Dr. Hess?
Dr. Hess. Some, yes. I think part of the rise is due to my own inability to estimate in the early days. We were scientists and not engineers, and we took rough guesses at what the cost of this sort of project would be.
Once it was tackled by a good engineering company, the costs immediately went up quite a bit because we were largely doing it on a shoestring or trying to, the way we usually do research, or partly, anyway, for that reason.
Senator ALLOTT. Your people didn't indicate to this committee when this project was first before it that it was largely on a guess. They gave us assured estimates.
Dr. Hess. You will have to give me a date. I am guessing now as of 1958 or 1959, far back in the early history.
Senator ALLOTT. I am talking about possibly 1961 and 1962.
Senator ALLOTT. At that time the estimates were $35 million. Now we are up to $122 million. That is a fair-sized jump in any man's language, Doctor.
Dr. Hess. Yes, sir.
Senator ALLOTT. That includes the first 3 years' operation, which NSF estimates will be the time to drill to the Moho.
Senator MAGNUSON. Oh, the operations included. Senator Fong had $84 million as total cost.
Senator Allott. We are up to $84 million up to the time they start drilling. By their own testimony, now, if we go ahead with this. I am intrigued by your testimony about using this as perhaps a recapture or recovery vessel for submarines. If this vehicle or ship is to be used in this research project which is proposed, can you tell me how you are going to move it around the oceans and recapture submarines?
MOBILITY OF PLATFORM Dr. Hess. Yes, sir, I think I could. If you had an emergency which required releasing your drilling pipe, you could abandon it, leave it there, and come back to it. You could move the ship at 10 knots to any place in the Pacific Ocean.
Senator ALLOIT. And at 10 knots it would take a considerable length of time to cover 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 mlies?
Dr. Hess. It would, sir, but with the present submarines they can exist for a very long time submerged, as you know.
Senator ALLOTT. Depending on what has happened to them.
Dr. Hess. Depending on what has happened to them. But you could conceivably have a submarine on the bottom for 30 days, and rescues would be feasible. I wasn't really suggesting that we use this platform, but you have a design here which could be used for a submarine rescue vessel.
SITE SELECTION Senator ALLOTT. We have been told from the first that this was going to be built somewhere in the southeast part of the United States, or the south part of the United States, and we have been assured very glibly that they would then move this platform through the Suez Canal which I questioned from the first.
I see that they have gradually come around to that point of view, and they propose to build it on the west coast now and also to select a site in or around Hawaii rather than a site in or around Puerto Rico or in that area which was contemplated at one time.
I think these are just perhaps a few of the dozen situations that we could direct attention to, in which those who planned this have missed the boat and, in fact, have in many instances actually misled the Congress during this entire project.
Dr. Hess. May I comment, sir?
Dr. Hess. On the selection of the site, I was chairman of the committee that did this. We continued to look for a site up to the last minute and it was our proposal that when we had to give a choice, which was January 15 about a year ago, the best site we had at that time was north of Hawaii. If we had chosen the site about 1 year earlier, the best site we had at that time with the research we had done was north of Puerto Rico. So this change was as the result of doing more research and coming to the conclusion that the Pacific site was the better of the two. There were two sites actually investigated closely.
Senator ALLOTT. What is your position with Princeton University ?
Dr. Hess. Professor of geology.
Senator ALLOTT. Are you financed by the National Science Foundation !
Dr. Hess. Some projects, yes, sir.
RUSSIAN DRILLING EFFORTS
Senator ELLENDER. Doctor, I noticed that the Russians are going to build one on land, 50,000 feet. Have you folks given any thought to drilling it from land instead of on the sea?
Dr. Hess. Well, it takes 100,000 feet instead of 50,000 feet to get your objective. That was the main reason for not doing it.
Senator ELLENDER. How do you know that?