Scientists have dug the deepest ocean hole in history

A research team working off the coast of Japan has just drilled a hole into the Pacific Ocean floor that is deeper than any previous hole in the ocean.

On May 14, scientists on the Japanese research ship Haimei sent a long, thin drill, known as a "giant piston coring device," nearly five miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, a statement said. They waited two hours and 40 minutes before the drill finally reached the bottom of the Japan Trench. There, the team pulled a 120-foot-long sedimentary core from the seafloor and slowly hauled the coring device up.

The drilling site was very close to the epicenter of the 9.1-magnitude Tohoku earthquake in 2011, the report said. That quake devastated northeastern Japan, triggering a massive tsunami that destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and led to catastrophic meltdowns. By studying sediments taken from the area, researchers hope to learn more about the trench's ancient seismic history.

The deepwater drilling operation beat the previous record holder, the report said. For nearly 50 years, that record has been held by the research ship Global Oceans Challenger, which drilled in the Mariana Trench in 1978. During that operation, a sedimentary core was removed from about 4.3 miles of water -- about 1,000 meters closer to fresh air than the Hamming's most recent mission.

So what is the deepest hole ever dug on land or in the sea? That title belongs to the Kola Ultra Deep Borehole, which Russian scientists drilled in 1989 on the Kola Peninsula in the far north of the country. Drilling for the project began in 1970; Nearly 20 years later, the hole had reached a maximum depth of 7.6 miles below the surface.