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How do you enter the center of the Earth?

Although penetrating beyond the earth’s crust is impossible for humans, that does not stop people from believing that certain places are the door to the center of the Earth

The journey to the center of the Earth is a recurring theme in science fiction novels and movies. In some of these imaginary journeys, the protagonists reach the deepest molten layers of the planet or even the core. In others, they discover an underground world with continents and oceans under the earth’s crust: the hollow Earth.

The hollow Earth theory arose at the end of the 17th century, with the idea that there was a large inhabited inner space inside the planet. The theory was scientifically refuted in 1774 with the Hutton experiment, but it still exists in folklore, in science fiction, and of course, in social networks.

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

A cross-sectional drawing of planet Earth showing the “Inner World” of Atvatabar, from William R. Bradshaw’s 1892 science fiction novel The Goddess of Atvatabar

As for drilling to the center of the Earth, however attractive the journey may seem, it is, however, impractical. If possible, it would be necessary to go through the four main layers of the planet, starting with the crust, the outermost layer, which is between 5 and 70 kilometers thick. Then it would pass through the mantle, a solid layer 2,800 kilometers thick, to reach the core, with a liquid outer layer 2,200 kilometers thick and a solid layer, the deepest, 1,270 kilometers.

The core is at a temperature of between 5,000 and 7,000 ºC, enough to melt any known rock, and is composed mostly of iron, along with nickel, sulfur and other elements. The only reason it remains solid is the immense pressures it is under. It doesn’t look like a nice place.

In real life, humans have barely scratched the crust in the deepest artificial holes ever drilled. Kola’s SG-3 super-deep borehole holds the world record at 12,262 meters in 1989 and remains the deepest man-made point on Earth.

But this modest incursion does not prevent that throughout history, certain places have received the title of doors to the underworld, to hell, or to the center of the Earth:

Snæfellsjökull, Iceland

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

The Snæfellsjökull glacier. Photo: Alex Proimos

Snæfellsjökull is a 700,000-year-old stratovolcano located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. It can sometimes be seen from the city of Reykjavík, from which it is at a distance of 120 km. It is one of the most famous places in Iceland, mainly due to Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, written in 1864, in which the protagonists find in the volcano the entrance to a passage that leads to the center of the earth. In this novel, Verne takes up the myth of the hollow earth, and the adventurers come across an underground world filled with oceans, jungles, and dinosaurs.

Mpneng Gold Mine, South Africa

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

Mpneng Gold Mine

This gold mine is one of the deepest on Earth, reaching more than four kilometers deep. The miners descend into the mine in an elevator that takes an hour to reach the bottom. At this depth, the rock temperature reaches 66 °C. For the miners to survive, suspended ice is pumped in to cool the tunnel air below 30°C. The tunnels are lined with steel-reinforced shotcrete, which acts as insulation. In 2008, researchers discovered the bacteria Desulforudis audaxviator present in groundwater samples several kilometers deep in the mine.

Mount Osore, Japan

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

Mount Osore, Japan

Mount Osore is the name of a Buddhist temple founded in 862 CE, and a pilgrimage destination in the center of the Shimokita Peninsula, in northern Japan. The temple is situated in the caldera of an active volcano and is believed in Japanese mythology to be one of the gates to the underworld. Although the last eruption occurred more than 10,000 years ago, sulfur dioxide fumaroles indicate that the volcano is still active. The landscape that surrounds it, with charred rocks and pits filled with bubbling liquid, makes it very easy to believe that this is where you get to hell.

Lake of Averno, Italy

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

Lake d’Averno, Campania, Italy

Lago d’Averno, in Italian, is a volcanic lake located in the crater of Averno, in Campania, in southern Italy. Averno was the name that the Romans gave to this crater with a circumference of 3.2 kilometers and which is part of the set of volcanoes of the Phlegrean Fields, neighbors of Vesuvius and the volcanic island of Ischia. The Romans considered Avernus the entrance to Hades, the underworld, and its name was usually used as a synonym for hell. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas descends into the underworld through a cave near the lake. In the Fabulae of Hyginus, Odysseus (Ulysses) also goes to the lower world from this place.

The Plutonium of Hierapolis, Turkey

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

The entrance to the Plutonium in Hierapolis

The Plutonium of Hierapolis or Pluto Gate was a ploutonion , a place of worship dedicated to the Greek god Pluto, ruler of the underworld. The city of Hierapolis is located near the Pamukkale, in the current Turkish province of Denizli. It is estimated that the temple dates from the same time as the founding of the city, around 190 CE. by King Eumenes of Pergamum. The temple is built on a cave that emits toxic gases, hence its relationship with hell. It was customary to sacrifice animals by tying them with a rope and introducing them into the cave, where they were suffocated by the gases.

Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

How do you enter the center of the Earth?

Darzava Crater in Turkmenistan

In this case it is a hell of human creation. The Darvaza gas crater, also known as the Karakum Glow or Hell’s Gate, is a collapsed natural gas field in a curve near this city in Turkmenistan. It is not a natural phenomenon, it is assumed that Soviet geologists intentionally set it on fire in 1971 to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it is believed to have been burning continuously ever since. The crater has a diameter of 69 meters and a depth of 30 m. It has become a tourist attraction and camping is common in its surroundings.

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