Scientists are going to examine why a huge chunk of the Earth's crust is missing, deep under the Atlantic Ocean:
The 20-strong team aims to survey an area some 3,000 to 4,000 metres deep where the mantle -- the deep interior of the earth normally covered by a crust kilometres thick -- is exposed on the sea floor.
Experts describe the hole along the mid-Atlantic ridge as an "open wound" on the ocean floor that has puzzled scientists for the five or so years that its existence has been known because it defies existing tectonic plate theories of evolution.
"We know so little about it," said Bramley Murton, a senior research scientist at Southampton's National Oceanography Centre.
"It's a real challenge to our established understanding of what the earth's surface looks like underneath the waves," he told Reuters by telephone from the brand new, hi-tech research ship RRS James Cook.