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Drilling Hits an Active Magma Chamber In Hawaii

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the time-for-a-lava-luau dept.

Earth 251

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting that drillers looking for geothermal energy in Hawaii have inadvertently put a well right into a magma chamber. Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study. Magma specialist Bruce Marsh says it will allow scientists to observe directly how granites are made. 'This is unprecedented; this is the first time a magma has been found in its natural habitat,' the Johns Hopkins University professor told BBC News. 'Before, all we had to deal with were lava flows; but they are the end of a magma's life. They're lying there on the surface, they've de-gassed. It's not the natural habitat.' It is hoped the site can now become a laboratory, with a series of cores drilled around the chamber to better characterise the crystallisation changes occurring in the rock as it loses temperature."

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251 comments

I'd rather be... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150055)

...drilling timothy's mom.

Re:I'd rather be... (5, Funny)

Timothy's Mom (1433915) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150115)

You insensitive clod! What if Timothy reads this?

bake him some cookies he'll get over it (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150207)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

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  3/4 cup sugar
  3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  1 cup butter, softened
  2 large eggs,beaten
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  3/4 teaspoon salt
  2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  if desired, 1 cup chopped pecans

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs in a large bowl by hand. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt. The dough will be very stiff. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans if desired. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. The centers will be soft. Let cool completely then remove from cookie sheet.

Re:bake him some cookies he'll get over it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150277)

+1 off-topic

Re:bake him some cookies he'll get over it (2, Funny)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150489)

Warning!

This is a troll recipe! I mixed it up and put it in my oven, and what came out? Tubgirl!

Re:bake him some cookies he'll get over it (1, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150725)

what license is this recipe released under? I can't eat GPL food because of the closed-source toilet at work :/

Re:bake him some cookies he'll get over it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150941)

Don't worry, you're safe as long as you don't distribute your derivative work.

Re:bake him some cookies he'll get over it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26151015)

This isn't Dailykos dumbass. Respond with some good ole fashion trolling of your own, ignore the post or mod him up or down. Those are your options here. Well that and hot grits references ;)

Re:I'd rather be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150697)

Ha ha. Methinks the moderator didn't see the username. Whatever it is, it isn't off-topic.

Question: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150419)

Niggers are dumb and lazy. Wait. There's no question about that.

Hot Drill Bit (5, Interesting)

JamJam (785046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150071)

I wonder if the magma melted the drill bit?

Re:Hot Drill Bit (2, Insightful)

von_rick (944421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150235)

I think they must've used a pile driver and not a traditional drill.

Molten rock pushed back up the borehole

If it was rotary drill, it would have occupied the volume of the borehole.

But knowing very little about geological drilling, I admit that I could be entirely wrong in my reasoning

Re:Hot Drill Bit (4, Interesting)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150715)

I'm fairly certain you're wrong in your reasoning, but I also am not an expert on the subject so I could be wrong as well.

However, first thing is the material that has to be removed as they drill. They would probably need some kind of rotary drill for this. Also, I can tell you from experience drilling other types of things (such as wood and concrete) that a rotary drill will never entirely occupy the volume of the borehole - there's always some slop that happens as you drill, and some space beside the drill bit. The other thing you may not have considered is that the magma could have forced a rotary drill up the borehole.

Re:Hot Drill Bit (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150883)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_drilling

Re:Hot Drill Bit (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151031)

I'm fairly certain you're wrong in your reasoning, but I also am not an expert on the subject so I could be wrong as well.

You're an old hand here at Slashdot, aren't you. ;-)

Re:Hot Drill Bit (2, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150939)

The hole was 2.5km deep. Drill bits are rotational, so the friction with the rocks causes them to reach temperatures above 700 Fahrenheit. Thus they need to be kept cool using liquid coolant. From the article, the magma entered the drill hole, but cooled down after rising a good number of metres before solidifying.

National Driller [nationaldriller.com]

They found it (2, Interesting)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150087)

Well they found it. Seems to me this would be the best source of geothermal they could hope for. If they could just keep it from plugging up the bore hole.

Re:They found it (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150169)

Why would someone who calls himself 'Lord Apathy' even bother to post a reply? And for that matter, what does God need with a starship?

Re:They found it (3, Funny)

GreenCow (201973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150517)

well if they had some space age, heat resistant pipes to shove down there into the magma, then run some liquid through the pipes to transmit the heat to a steamer, we'd have delicious vegetables in no time. i mean geothermal power. large scale geothermal.

it'd be pricey to make the first one, but it could be a big player in renewable energy. and unlike solar panels and wind mills which are like socialized energy because everyone controls the production, this could be a major central project for a greedy corporation.

then before you know it they drill to deep and there's a balrog running the streets.

Re:They found it (5, Funny)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150559)

I believe those pipes would need to be made from an alloy known as 'unobtainium'.

Re:They found it (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150605)

I believe those pipes would need to be made from an alloy known as 'unobtainium'.

Isn't that an alloy of jumbonium and raritanium?

Re:They found it (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150689)

balonium might also work.

Re:They found it (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151127)

Or in a pinch the could use Governmentium [astahost.com] which is so dense I doubt even the heat of Magma would be able to move it. And of course as a nice bonus if they blow all their money they can then use the Governmentium to bail themselves out. It's a win/win!

Re:They found it (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150603)

Just drill down far enough so that the temperature of the surrounding rock is at a prime point for geothermal energy. No need to get right to the magma.

Re:They found it (1)

frieko (855745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150771)

Magma's not hot enough to melt steel or titanium. I've always wondered why laying pipe near/inside volcanoes couldn't solve all our energy needs. I'm sure it's not easy, but it seems easier than, say, putting a man on the moon.

Re:They found it (2, Informative)

evilad (87480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150885)

You might not get as much heat conducted into that pipe as you'd hope. Magma has a finite thermal conductivity. More so after it's cooled to the point of solidification.

Re:They found it (1)

Stuart Gibson (544632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150985)

Again, absolutely zero knowledge of, well, anything involved here, but I assume it would be a bad idea to lay pipes anywhere with high levels of tectonic activity?

Re:They found it (4, Funny)

barzok (26681) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151025)

Every time I try to lay pipe near/inside volcanoes, she tells me "not tonight, I have a headache."

Re:They found it (3, Funny)

19thNervousBreakdown (768619) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150989)

No shit, I'm wondering how exactly it was "inadvertent" to drill into liquid hot mag-ma when you're drilling toward the hottest thing you can find on a volcanic island.

Perfectly safe? (4, Insightful)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150121)

Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study

When dealing with a pressurized body of molten rock with entrained gasses, I don't think one could ever say it is perfectly safe.

Re:Perfectly safe? (1)

JackassJedi (1263412) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150255)

"[...] [D]rillers looking for geothermal energy in Hawaii have inadvertently put a well right into a magma chamber. Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study." Futurama anyone? Or "LOST"?

Re:Perfectly safe? (1)

von_rick (944421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150305)

I think their assumption was based upon the observation that it had solidified. If they've erred in gauging the extent of solidification or the pressure of the magma underneath, they would become statistical data for the theory of natural selection.

Re:Perfectly safe? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150325)

I've eaten Thai food and I wholeheartedly agree.

Re:Perfectly safe? (1)

MollyB (162595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150377)

Good point. Let us not forget that they plan to dig 'many' holes into the chamber. I can envision the whole area collapsing into the chamber for lack of support. A giant game of "tear on the dotted line", so to speak.

Re:Perfectly safe? (3, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150955)

Not sure that would be an issue. Magma is pretty dense, so it's not like a huge chunk of rock would just displace into it in the same way as if it were water. Depending on the density of the rock above, it might even float on the magma.

It's also pretty close to the surface (obviously) so there isn't (apparently) enough weight on it to produce the pressure needed to remove some of that magma and create a void for the land to fall into.

It also appears to be self-sealing, which is also good for safety.

For a hellish molten holocaust waiting to happen, it seems pretty benign.

Re:Perfectly safe? (4, Insightful)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150531)

If it were truly under a dangerous amount of pressure, wouldn't this borehole have become another volcano? The fact that it traveled only a short distance before solidifying suggests the pressure isn't a concern.

Re:Perfectly safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26151033)

If it were truly under a dangerous amount of pressure, wouldn't this borehole have become another volcano? The fact that it traveled only a short distance before solidifying suggests the pressure isn't a concern.

Yet. There is now a new weakspot in the chamber wall, and a convenient tunnel that goes all the way to the surface.

There's nothing they can do about it now, but I'd watch it like a hawk.

Re:Perfectly safe? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150543)

Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study

I'm sure they're leaving out their initial observations which probably went something like: "OH FUCK!! RUN! ok.. i think it stopped.. let's change our underwear then we'll send the new guy over to check it out"

Re:Perfectly safe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150695)

When dealing with a pressurized body of molten rock with entrained gasses, I don't think one could ever say it is perfectly safe.

That's what my friends tell me after I've eaten at taco bell or white castle!

Re:Perfectly safe? (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150905)

This whole thing makes me wonder if they are in fact dealing with lava and not magma (yes, there is a difference). Lava is known to form lava tubes, [wikipedia.org] which could be mistaken for magma. Hey, I'm no geologist, I'm just saying... how are they so sure?

That explains it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150129)

Why I felt my desk at work drop a couple inches.

Odd misreading... (4, Funny)

tomknight (190939) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150147)

Dammit, I read "..active manga chamber...". Confused, yes.

Re:Odd misreading... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150321)

I think the tentacle demons would be a bit harder to keep in the pit than magma.

Re:Odd misreading... (2, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150613)

Pfft... throw in a schoolgirl in a sailor suit every month and everyone's happy.

Re:Odd misreading... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150917)

I don't think a punchline that ends in a schoolgirl being raped is funny.

It's a gusher!! (5, Funny)

xleeko (551231) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150155)

All that I can picture is the classic 19th century drill tower with glowing magma spraying from the top, and lava-coated workmen running around cheering "It's a gusher!!"

Actually, in my mind, the workmen look a lot like Homer Simpson ...

Re:It's a gusher!! (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150243)

Actually, in my mind, the workmen look a lot like Homer Simpson ...

In my mind, they look a lot more like Freddy Krueger.

Re:It's a gusher!! (0)

Adriax (746043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150467)

I was gonna say Anakin Skywalker...

Re:It's a gusher!! (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150497)

In my mind, they look like Wesley Crusher ... and they aren't cheering "It's a Gusher!!" they're crying "Get it off! It burns it burns!"

Re:It's a gusher!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150859)

In my mind, they... *shoots self*

Re:It's a gusher!! (4, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150945)

In my mind, there's one workwoman, she's played by Natalie Portman, and the lava is actually hot grits.

The dream realised (5, Funny)

El Yanqui (1111145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150173)

"It has been described as a geologist's dream"

Dare to dream, geologists. Dare to dream.

Re:The dream realised (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150337)

A man goes into a restaurant, sits down and starts reading the menu. The menu says:

Broiled Accountant $5.95 per plate
Fried Engineer $7.95 per plate
Toasted Teacher $7.95 per plate
Grilled Geologist $25.95 per plate

The man calls a waiter over and asks "Hey, why does the Grilled Geologist cost so much more?"

The waiter says, " Are you kidding? Do you know how hard it is to clean one of them?!?!"

What a lode of fuchsite.

The difference. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150677)

Normal Person: Holy crap, we just created a vent for magma to escape!
Scientist: Ooh, we haven't studied this before!
I love it. Oh, and obligatory XKCD comic [xkcd.com].

Need some better equipment. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150175)

I don't know, but "accidentally" drilling into a magma chamber seems like some calculations went wrong somewhere.

Re:Need some better equipment. (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150307)

Considering he was drilling for geothermal heat sources, I would say he got his calculations just right.

Some pipes with circulating coolant dropped into a magma chamber would be a great source of heat.

Re:Need some better equipment. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150555)

Seriously, how hard is it to drill in Hawaii and hit molten rock? About as hard as it is to drill in Maine and hit water?

Sounds to me it's the joy of hitting virgin magma, which for a geologist must be better than hitting an underground reservoir of extra virgin olive oil... Or hitting the same acquifer that Poland Springs water comes from in Maine... which is pretty damned cool, or hot, or something.

Re:Need some better equipment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150937)

Or for a geologist hitting a virgin anything for that matter.

Re:Need some better equipment. (1)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151021)

In the Uberwald regions of the Discworld, you can drill and hit underground deposits of animal fat...

I bet that got interesting... (3, Funny)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150197)

When his gauges pegged at the upper limits and his torquemeter went to zero when he breached the wall of the chamber.

Re:I bet that got interesting... (4, Funny)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150569)

Interesting might be an understatement. More like "Oh Shit!" You know, those two words you never want to hear your bomb technician, drill operator, or gynecologist exclaim.

Saul of the Mole Men (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150223)

Isn't this exactly what happened in Saul of the Mole Men?

Oblig. Daniel Plainview post (3, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150285)

If you have a glass of magma, and I have a glass of magma and I have a straw. And let's say my straw and it reaches across the room and into your magma. I drink your magma. I DRINK IT UP!

Re:Oblig. Daniel Plainview post (1)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150391)

Let's all go out for boiling chocolate magmashakes!

Re:Oblig. Daniel Plainview post (1)

redcaboodle (622288) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150583)

So that's what they served me when I ordered a strawberry flavoured hot chocolate. I did wonder why it took ages to cool down to a drinkable temperature.

Old news.... This happened in 2005 (4, Informative)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150295)

I would love to know why it was kept quiet for so long.

"The breakthrough was made in 2005. Only now are researchers confident enough about their work to discuss the details publicly."

So what were they not confident about? Hot temperatures - check. No drill bit left - check. Rock fused to end of drill - check.

Re:Old news.... This happened in 2005 (3, Interesting)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150367)

RE: So what were they not confident about?

Getting suppressed by W. and Co.

-It's science... check
-It threatens oil usage... check

Confdence (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150439)

Probably waiting to see that they didn't rip open the Earth's crust, causing a global disaster like an old Dr. Who episode (Jon Pertwee).

That sounds better when read in a William Conrad voice, like in Rocky and Bulwinkle.

Re:Confdence (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150827)

That is the first thing that came to mind when I saw this headline. I thought it should have had a drwho tag, but then I thought that's a pretty esoteric reference, even for Slashdot. Also, fortunately that all happened in a parallel universe earth, so the Brigadier is still alive and kickin' here.

Re:Old news.... This happened in 2005 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150733)

Maybe they've been worried about something like this [nus.edu.sg] happening, except with lava.

Re:Old news.... This happened in 2005 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150833)

So what were they not confident about? Hot temperatures - check. No drill bit left - check. Rock fused to end of drill - check.

...magma flowing empty the core of the earth up to the point that we are sitting on an empty sphere with a pudding on top - check

Bored into the Dark One's prison (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150323)

was the project leader called Mierin by any chance?

Re:Bored into the Dark One's prison (1)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150829)

I knew we couldn't trust that Brandon Sanderson character... Shoulda known he was working with that darned Forsaken.

Quote of the year (4, Funny)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150349)

This is unprecedented; this is the first time a magma has been found in its natural habitat

Is this professor also known as David Attenborough?

Re:Quote of the year (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150477)

This is unprecedented; this is the first time a magma has been found in its natural habitat

Is this professor also known as David Attenborough?

Possibly, but that quote makes me wonder whether my local Zoo is home to a nest of magma?

Perfectly Safe? (5, Funny)

Yossarian45793 (617611) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150401)

Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study.

I don't think that phrase means what you think it means...

mmm pancakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150527)

"The consistency of the magma was like chilled pancake syrup, he said."

I love pancakes!

Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150547)

episode comes to mind, called "Inferno"

Drilling into the mantle released some odd mutation that ended up in the destruction of the planet.. (in an alternate reality)

Ooops (3, Funny)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150561)

Dear Boss:

We had a tragic accident today. We were drilling for heat - well the good news is we found it. Lots of it. The bad news is that we destroyed a $50,000 drill bit and pipe.

Please don't fire me.

No pun intended.

Your faithful employee, and gracious servant, who hopes you will come to my home for Christmas dinner. Or any other dinner you desire...
John Doe

Life imitates Dwarf Fortress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150595)

Pfft! What were they thinking!? They should have stopped as soon as they got "Digging designation canceled: Warm stone located"...

Re:Life imitates Dwarf Fortress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150797)

But how else to you get rid of the giant influx of migrants every season?

Easy Investment (1)

critical_point (1430417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150621)

In the 1890s the king of Hawaii sent a telegram to Thomas Edison asking about the feasibility of transporting geothermal power on the big island, which is relatively less populated, to the capital in Oahu by means of an undersea cable.

Looking for geothermal wells is guesswork, just like looking for oil. Still, there are ~20 prospective geothermal wells that have not been explored on the big island, and it is estimated that the combined output of the resources in these wells could supply up to 4 times the current power consumption of the entire state, for up to 500 years.

Not granite... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150625)

"Magma specialist Bruce Marsh says it will allow scientists to observe directly how granites are made."

No, because the magma in Hawaii is mafic in composition, yielding basaltic [wikipedia.org] or gabbroic [wikipedia.org]) rocks, not felsic like granites [wikipedia.org]. Maybe they mean being able to observe intrusive processes like the ones that produce granite?

Re:Not granite... (1)

BobReturns (1424847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150899)

The AC above me is entirely correct, and should be modded up.

Rather than "granites" the quote should probably say "large grained intrusions" or better still "Gabbros".

Doesn't Make Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150639)

Drilling for magma is good while drilling for oil is bad?

EVery last one of those mountains are still active (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150665)

Some ppl claim that they are not, but they are all still active. Some are just deeper.

Are they crazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26150683)

By making this hole the Earth will start leaking!

Better call Austin Powers... (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150807)

Seems like Dr. Evil is going to drill into the "red hot mag-ma" sooner than he thought...

Drilling into a volcano - and were shocked? (2, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26150967)

But the drillers were shocked - not only to hit magma but to also hit such a big heat source at the relatively shallow depth of 2.5km.

I'm sorry, call me naive. However, would any of you here be shocked if you drill into a frigging volcano and discover - gasp - magma?

I mean, isn't all of Hawaii just a bunch of volcanos? How can anyone be "shocked" to find magma close to the surface of a volcano? Especially geologists? Like, isn't geology their field? Doesn't it stand to reason that a volcano, you know, a mountain made of lava flows, lava which when underground is called magma, just might -- might -- have magma relatively close to the surface?

Drilling for geothermal energy may harm your home (5, Interesting)

fzimper (201054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26151047)

In the German city of Staufen, they drilled some 140m deep holes to get geothermal energy for heating the town hall and adjacent buildings.

Unfortunately, this drilling caused many cracks in houses around the city centre. Some of these cracks are said to be big enough that you can put your fingers in.

According to this article [spiegel.de] on the English Spiegel (a German news magazine) website, dated March 2008, the whole city is sinking. In a recent German article [spiegel.de] from November, they write that the city has risen several centimeters due to water mixing with gypsum deep down and therefore causing the gypsum to expand.

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