Energy and Extraction

Going deep: Excavation, collaboration and imagination at the Kola Superdeep Borehole

On the Kola Peninsula in the Russian Arctic lies an innocuous iron disc about the size of a dinner plate. If one were to prise this disc open, they would find the remains of the world’s deepest vertical hole. Reaching a depth of over 12 kilometres, the Kola Superdeep Borehole was drilled in the pursuit of excavating scientific knowledges for a better understanding of the Earth’s crust. Whilst the borehole produced some important findings, and hosted an international delegation of researchers, once the Soviet Union collapsed, it fell into disrepair. Since its closure, the Kola Superdeep has become lost to history, but its existence as a ruin has generated new artistic engagements with the underground. This article uses the geological notion of discontinuity – a structural break in the rock – to imagine how discontinuity might be found within the borehole itself. It does this by identifying three access points: excavation through drilling and coring, collaboration through cross-border scientific work, and imagination through art and the weird. By resisting the notion that the subterranean can be objectively known through science, I reveal how the Kola Superdeep produces other relations, knowledges, and ways of sensing the subterranean.

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Volume 41 Issue 3

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