10. SOUNDBITE (English): Professor Zvi Ben-Avraham, head of the The Minerva Dead Sea Research Centre
"This project is aimed at providing a unique record, an unprecedented recorder, of the paleo climate, and the paleo seismicity in the Middle East over the last half a million years."
11. Shot of research ship
12. Shot of dead sea water
13. Captain of the research ship
14. Close up on ship's steering wheel
15. Wide of dead sea
16. Shot of ship
17. SOUNDBITE (English): Dr. Michael Lazar, project manager,
"The message is is that I think we can get along together and if was to rename this project I would call it drilling for peace in the Middle East."
18. Drilling station in mid-sea
19. Various of drilling work
20. Zoom in to piece of Dead Sea extracted from drilling
21. Wide of the Dead Sea
Scientists in Israel are drilling into the murky depths of the Dead Sea in hopes of unearthing scientific treasures found in 500,000 years worth of mud and sediment.
The unique setting of the Dead Sea _ the lowest place on earth at 422 meters (1,385 feet) below sea level _ should present researchers with distinctly stratified sedimentation that may answer scientific questions ranging from geology to archaeology and could lead to new insight into climate change.
Researchers say the 500 meter (1,640 feet) core that will be pulled out of the muddy water could open the door to years of research as every stratum could inspire a new hypothesis.
The project is the brainchild of two Israeli scientists who believed that drilling deep into the crust under the Dead Sea could expose new information that other research on its banks did not reveal.
About 10 years ago, Zvi Ben-Avraham and Mordechai Stein appealed to Germany-based ICDP, which organises scientific drilling around the world. The ICDP's approval of the Israeli scientists' request came only this year, after it was delayed in part because of the Israeli-Palestinian fighting of the first half of the decade.
In a sign of how the relationship between the two sides has thawed since, Palestinians as well as Jordanian researchers are participating in the project.
Dead Sea research is one of the few spheres that sees Palestinians and Israelis working together.
The Dead Sea is unique not only for the partnerships it has created but also for its low altitude.
Professor Zvi Ben-Avraham, the head of the The Minerva Dead Sea Research Centre, says "This project is aimed at providing a unique record, an unprecedented recorder, of the paleo climate, and the paleo seismicity in the Middle East over the last half a million years."
Unlike most other lakes, only one river, the Jordan, runs through it and none pour out of it, meaning the sedimentary build up of the last millions of years has largely remained intact.
That will allow scientists to take a look at the mud and sediment core that will be drilled out of the earth, date it and determine what type of climate dominated during what period.
The mud is marked by lighter and darker layers, the former a remnant from a dry period, the latter from flooding. This historical record could present fresh insight on climate change.
It's hoped the research will be able to show if 368,494 years ago was a rainy year or not, or if there was an earthquake.
Where the sediment layers don't line up, there was likely an earthquake. Beyond new knowledge this may provide seismologists, archaeologists studying biblical temblors will be able to match up their findings with the timeline presented by the broken lines of the Dead Sea core. Anthropologists researching the migrations of early man _ many of whom are believed to have passed through the Dead Sea basin area _ could find new information to support theories.
The project may also help scientists learn about the fluctuating levels of the Dead Sea. The lake has shrunk significantly in the last few decades, mostly because of increased water extraction from the Jordan River, by Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian sources.
The $2 million, 40-day project is being conducted by about 40 scientists and in cooperation with partners from seven countries.
The drill, which travels around the world conducting scientific operations, can penetrate through 1,500 meters (5,000 feet).
The scientists are only gathering 500 meters worth because they expect to hit a layer of thick salt at that level that will slow down the process.
Workers will drill in two daily shifts of 12 hours, removing the core in 3-meter-long cylinders with a diameter of 13 centimeters (5 inches) at a time.
Another parallel hole will be drilled nearby to account for any layers that may have been accidentally detached from the first hole. These will then be shipped to the University of Bremen in Germany, where they will be refrigerated and prepared for study.
Dr. Michael Lazar, the project manager, says "The message is is that I think we can get along together and if was to rename this project I would call it drilling for peace in the Middle East."