Ocean monster shows hidden depths
For a while during its design, Asahiko Taira told me, the ship became known as “Godzilla-maru”, so unusual and top-heavy were its projected lines.
“We started planning the Chikyu about 15 years ago, and there were some people who thought we were too ambitious,” he recalled.
“But now we can see that the ship is doing what it is designed to do and is opening up new possibilities.”
As director-general of the Center for Deep Earth Exploration (CDex), an arm of Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (Jamstec), Dr Taira played a key role in steering the Chikyu from vague concept to steel reality.
The idea was simple. Scientists wanted to drill down into the Earth’s crust – and even through the crust – to get samples from the key zones 6 or 7km down where earthquakes and lots of other interesting geological processes begin; but that was impossible with existing ships.