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Press Release: August 31, 2007 - African climate change and early humans


Introduction

The Lake Malawi Drilling Project recently completed a scientific drilling campaign on Lake Malawi, recovering a series of continuous sediment cores for paleoclimate studies. Lake Malawi is situated at the southern end of the East African Rift Valley, and has long been recognized as an outstanding laboratory and archive for the study of tropical paleoclimatology, extensional tectonics, and evolutionary biology. Along with Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi holds the promise of a high-resolution paleoclimate record of unparalleled antiquity in the continental tropics. Lake Malawi is one of the world's largest, deepest (maximum water depth of 700 m), and oldest lakes (>7ma?), and is the largest lake in the southern hemisphere (9º-14ºS) after Lake Tanganyika.


Bathymetric map of Lake Malawi with locations of two 2005 drill sites.  Small
images to right are seismic reflection profiles acquired over the two core sites.
Bathymetric contour interval is 100 m.  Drilling operations mobilized from
Chipoka, and the project was resupplied from the ports of Nkhata Bay and
Chilumba. 
High Resolution Image
Malawi Drill Barge departing 
The dynamically-positioned drilling barge Viphya, departing port.  Lake Malawi is 
one of the world's largest and deepest lakes, and along with Lake Tanganyika 
contains more than 80% of the surface freshwater on the African continent.   
New drill core evidence shows that the 700 m-deep lake was reduced by more 
than 500 m prior to 75,000 years ago, indicating periods of severe aridity. 
Image courtesy of M.R. Talbot, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bergen.
High Resolution Image

 

Key Scientific Objectives

 

Viphya Flyover 
Aerial view of the 160' drilling barge on Lake Malawi in 2005, where 26 members 
of the drill team, science team, and ships crew lived for six weeks.
Image courtesy of I. Castaneda, University of Minnesota. 
High Resolution Image 
Science team rig floor
Members of the science team await the next sample on the crowded rig floor. 
Image courtesy of C.A. Scholz, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University. 
High Resolution Image

 

core image 1
Finely-laminated, diatom-rich silty-clay, deposited during lake highstands.
High Resolution Image
Image courtesy of the Lake Malawi Drilling Project.
core image 2
Grey, carbonate-rich mottled clay deposited during severe lowstands and megadroughts.
High Resolution Image
Image courtesy of the Lake Malawi Drilling Project.
 

Scientific Drilling Completed on Lake Malawi – March 2005

 

Outreach I
Science team member briefs a group of secondary school students on rig operations.  
Image courtesy of C.A. Scholz, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University 
High Resolution Image
Outreach II
Science team member shows an example of a lake sediment core to a group of  
Malawian secondary school students.  
Image courtesy of I. Castaneda, University of Minnesota. 
High Resolution Image
 
Water Spout
Waterspout near drilling barge Viphya at conclusion of drilling operation, along with 
hatch of like flies.
Image courtesy of C.A. Scholz, Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse, University.
High Resolution Image
 

 

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