Marine biologists have found a giant plug at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, in the Marianas Trench.
The researchers, in their deep submersible, were not particularly surprised when they spotted an enormous chain snaking across the muddy bottom. 6,000 metres down.
Spanish team leader Juan Morelie said "We thought it was a ship's anchor chain, but after tracing it for a few hundred metres realised it was too long for that. After more than 5 kilometres, we could see what at first looked like a large inspection cover attached to the end of the chain, but a closer look revealed that it was a plug stuck in the ocean bottom. One of my colleagues suggested we use the robot arm to grab the chain and see if we could move the plug, but we all soon realised that could be rather dangerous".
US government scientists have hailed the discovery as a sure-fire way of limiting sea-level rise expected as a result of Global Warming, but others have urged caution.
Some have suggested that the plug might be blocking a large thermal vent, which might heat up the ocean if the plug was removed. Others suggest that because of the great pressure at that depth, there might be a large underfloor reservoir of hot water which would be released, also heating the ocean and causing a simultaneous rise in sea level.
"I think a cautious investigation is called for" said Dr. Jonah Ahab of the Hawaii Oceanographic Institute. "We don't want to cock things up". He pointed to the recent fiasco of the BHITB (Big Hole In The Bottom) project off the coast of Florida. "They dug out 60 million tons of rock, only to realise they had nowhere to put it, and their solution of another BHITB only made the situation worse".
Indian oceanographer and geologist Gungho Dhinn disagreed. "The sale of green wellies in the Maldive Islands is doubling year-on-year. We have to do something before we have to start shipping thousands of houseboats out there. Before long the Bondi Beach lifeguards will be running their lifelines from the top of the sand dunes, and locally-caught shark will be on the menu in Canberra".
While urgent international discussions continue on the best course of action, Juan Morelie said "I'm glad we left it alone. We realised at best the water might have rushed throught that hole, hit the molten core of the earth, and blasted the planet apart, and at worst we'd have had to walk home".