Deep Life Drilling in the Death Valley Rift Zone

The proposed location represents a prime example of several major continental geological settings (rift valleys, extensional zones, continental carbonate and volcanic lithologies, commercial ore zones, and seismically-active fault zones). The uniquely thin crust underlying Death Valley and surrounds results in a very high geothermal gradient (possibly approaching 50°C/km); which will facilitate drilling to the 120°C isotherm (theoretical limit for life) at a reasonable cost. Being located in an inwardly-draining hydrologic basin within the discharge zone of a vast, fractured rock regional aquifer known as the Death Valley Regional Flow System, deep circulation of paleometeoric water and the corresponding transport of deep life to great depths and over long distances is expected. The combination of a well understood geo-hydrological setting and prior evidence for the existence of deep life, coupled with a relevant international research team and the availability of novel technologies for the characterization of deep microbial communities supports this concept for a flagship deep life study.

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