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Name: Chikyū (地球; ちきゅう?)
Namesake: Japanese word for "Earth"
Owner: CDEX
Operator: CDEX
Port of registry: Japan Yokosuka
Builder: Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Cost: 60 billion yen
Laid down: 25 April 2001
Launched: 18 January 2002
Acquired: 29 July 2005
Homeport: Yokosuka, Kanagawa
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: NK (Nippon Kaiji Kyokai)
Type: Ocean-going Drilling Vessel
Displacement: 57,087 tons
Length: 210 m (690 ft)
Beam: 38 m (125 ft)
Height: 130 m (430 ft)
Draft: 9.2 m (30 ft)
Depth: 16.2 m
  • 1 × 2,550kW side thruster
  • 6 × 4,100kW azimuth thrusters
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Range: 14,800 nmi (27,400 km; 17,000 mi)
Complement: 200
Crew: 100

Chikyū (地球; ちきゅう?) is a Japanese scientific drilling ship built for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The vessel is designed to ultimately drill seven kilometres beneath the seabed,[dated info] where the Earth's crust is much thinner, and into the Earth's mantle, deeper than any other hole drilled in the ocean thus far.

While the planned depth of the hole is significantly less than the Russian Kola Superdeep Borehole (which reached 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) depth on land), the scientific results are expected to be much more interesting since the regions targeted by Chikyū include some of the most seismically-active regions of the world. Other deep holes have been drilled by the drill ship JOIDES Resolution during the Deep Sea Drilling Project and the Ocean Drilling Program.


The Japanese part of the IODP program is called Chikyū Hakken (地球発見 Chikyū Hakken?), Japanese for "Earth Discovery". Chikyū is operated by the Centre for Deep Earth Research (CDEX), a subdivision of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). JAMSTEC also operates the DSV Shinkai, Earth Simulator supercomputer and other marine scientific research projects. CDEX is responsible for the services to support activities including on-board staffing, data management for core samples and logging; implements engineering site surveys; and conducts engineering developments. CDEX contracts with the Mantle Quest Japan Company for the navigation of the ship.

The Chikyū Hakken program is part of an international scientific collaborative effort with scientists from the United States, ECORD, a consortium consisting of several European countries and Canada, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand (ANZIC), and India.


D/V Chikyū was built by the Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding and launched on January 18, 2002 in Nagasaki, Nagasaki.[2] The ship was outfitted by the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and delivered to JAMSTEC on July 29, 2005.[3]

The hull of the ship is 210 meters long, 38 meters in width, 16.2 meters high, and has an approximate gross tonnage of about 57,000 tons. The ship has a draft of 9.2 meters and a maximum cruising speed of 12 knots. The amidships derrick is 121 m above sea level, and the top drive has a lifting capacity of 1,250 tons. Its complement of 150 crew are divided between 100 operators and 50 science personnel, with at sea crew changes handled by helicopter transfer.[citation needed]

Key innovations include a GPS system and six adjustable computer controlled azimuth thrusters (3.8 meters in diameter) that enable precise positioning to maintain a stable platform during deep water drilling. The maximum drilling water depth for riser drilling is 2,500 meters and can support a drill string up to 10,000 meters long.[citation needed]

The helipad can serve very large helicopters transporting as many as 30 persons per landing.[4]


The D/V Chikyū was built for deep-sea geological scientific research, which now includes not only research of earthquake-generating zones in the Earth's crust but also hydrothermal vents[5] and subsea methane hydrate research.[4]

On November 16, 2007 Chikyū began drilling the NanTroSEIZE transect as planned, reaching 1,400 meters at the site of a future deep subsea floor observatory. The first stage of four NanTroSEIZE Stages was completed in February 2008. The whole project was envisioned to be completed by 2012.[6]

The ship was damaged by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. The ship was moored 300 m off the coast of Hachinohe, Aomori, but was cut loose by the tsunami and collided with a pier of Hachinohe port. One of the six stabilizers was damaged and a 1.5 meter hole was made in the bottom. Local preliminary school children who were visiting the ship at the time of the earthquake spent one night on board and were rescued by Japan Self-Defense Forces helicopters next day. The ship was repaired at a dock in Shingū, Wakayama and returned to service in June 2011.[7]

World record

According to the IODP, on 27 April 2012, Chikyū drilled to a depth of 7,740 meters (25,400 feet) below sea level, setting a new world record for deep-sea drilling. This record has since been surpassed by the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon mobile offshore drilling unit, operating on the Tiber prospect in the Mississippi Canyon Field, United States Gulf of Mexico, when it achieved a world record for total length for a vertical drilling string of 10,062 m (33,011 ft).[8] The previous record was held by the U.S. vessel Glomar Challenger, which in 1978 drilled to 7,049.5 meters (23,130 feet) below sea level in the Mariana Trench.[9] On 6 September 2012 Scientific deep sea drilling vessel Chikyū set a new world record by drilling down and obtaining rock samples from deeper than 2,111 meters below the seafloor off the Shimokita Peninsula of Japan in the northwest Pacific Ocean. In addition, the 27 April 2012 drilling set a record for the depth of water for drilling of 6960 m. That record still stands.

In popular culture

The D/V Chikyū is featured and plays a pivotal role in the 2006 film Nihon Chinbotsu.

See also


  2. 地球深部探査船「ちきゅう」に三井造船も貢献, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding
  3. Chikyū history page, accessed 2007-08-27
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mann, Charles C. (April 2013). "What If We Never Run Out of Oil?". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 23 May 2013. The Chikyū, which first set out in 2005, was initially intended to probe earthquake-generating zones in the planet’s mantle, a subject of obvious interest to seismically unstable Japan. Its present undertaking was, if possible, of even greater importance: trying to develop an energy source that could free not just Japan but much of the world from the dependence on Middle Eastern oil.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. [1], Deep Hot Biosphere hydrothermal vents.
  6. Chikyū's first mission complete Nature News, November 19, 2007
  7. 地球深部探査船:「ちきゅう」修理完了…津波で損傷
  9. "Japan deep-sea drilling probe sets world record". The Kansas City Star. Associated Press. 28 April 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links