Dead Sea dig to provide Earth clues

Nov. 17, 2010 at 8:07 PM

TEL AVIV, Israel, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A team of scientists says digging below the Dead Sea will extract material that could provide an important look at Earth's history over the past 500,000 years.

An international team of researchers has begun drilling from a platform near the Israeli Dead Sea resort of Ein Boqeq, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday. A thin slice of Earth's history will be extracted from a 3,937-foot-deep borehole being drilled by a special rig set up in the northern basin of the sea.

Scientists will examine layers of sediment laid down during the course of millions of years beneath the lowest place on Earth, looking for clues about shifting weather patterns, seismic activity and climate change.

"The sediments ... provide an 'archive' on the environmental conditions that existed in the area in its geological past," the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, a partner in the project, said.

"We believe that the results of this project will have vast implications in the fields of science and environment and will shed light on new natural resources," Zvi Ben-Avraham, a professor at Tel Aviv University, and Moti Stein, with the Israel Geological Survey, said in a joint statement.

The International Continental Drilling Program, a group that has carried out similar probes deep into Earth's crust at locations around the world, is sponsoring the project.

In what the report called an atypical example of regional co-ordination, the governments of Israel and Jordan, as well as the Palestinian Authority, are co-operating with the project, expected to run until the end of this year.

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