Measure for Measure

Grade Level: 6-12

Adapted from Joint Oceanographic Institutions in the Classroom, 2005


Geoscientists use special boats to conduct research at sea. One of these boats is named the JOIDES Resolution (JR). Unlike most oceangoing vessels, the JR has a flat bottom, a 6.4-meter hole in the middle, 12 laboratories, and a derrick towering 67 meters above the waterline! Why? So scientists can sail nearly anywhere in the world to drill for samples of rocks and sediment from below the seafloor. What for? In hopes of discovering clues about Earth's history and structure, life in the deep biosphere, past climate change, earthquakes and natural resources. How long is the JR? 143 meters. How far below sea level can it drill? 8,382 meters.

It might be helpful to construct a scale model of the ship and its drill string (the pipes that are strung from the derrick to the seafloor and below) in your classroom. In this activity, students will calculate scales of distance and length as used by ocean drilling scientists.

JOIDES Resolution Research Vessel (from



  1. To draw a scale model the length of a measuring tape, write the scale as a ratio of the "life size" JR length to the tape measure:
    143 m: 152 cm.
    You also can write it as a fraction, then divide to find the scale: 143 m/152 cm = 0.94 meters per centimeter.
  2. Write ratios and fractions, then calculate scales for the following relationships:
    The length of the ship to the length of your classroom.