For a while during its design,
Asahiko Taira told me, the ship became known as “Godzilla-Maru”,
so unusual and top-heavy were its projected lines.
“We started planning the Chikyu
about 15 years ago, and there were some people who thought
we were too ambitious,” he recalled.
“But now we can see that the ship is doing what it is
designed to do and is opening up new possibilities.”
As director-general of the Center
for Deep Earth Exploration (CDex),
an arm of Japan’s Agency for Marine-Earth Science and
Dr Taira played a key role in steering the Chikyu from vague
concept to steel reality.
The idea was simple.
Scientists wanted to drill down into
the Earth’s crust - and even through the crust - to get samples
from the key zones 6 or 7km down where
earthquakes and lots of other
interesting geological processes begin; but that was impossible
with existing ships.
Solution: find six hundred million dollars, and design and build
a new one.