[LMDP] LMDP - Lake Malawi Drilling Project

Climate & Ecosystems

Year of Application: 2000

Expedition ID: 5020

Current Status: completed

climate change
global environment
lake drilling
rift zones
Master Data

Prof. Dr. Frank Sirocko (PI)
Prof. Dr. Ulrich A. Glasmacher (PI)
Prof. Dr. Günther Wagner (PI)
Prof. Dr. Christian Betzler (PI)

Prof. Dr. Ulrich A. Glasmacher (Scientific Participant)
Dr. Annette Kadereit (Scientific Participant)
Prof. Dr. Manfred Strecker (Scientific Participant)

Geologisches Alter:

Latitude: 10°0'9''S


Regionen & Städte:

East African Rift Valley
Lake Malawi

Longitude: 34°6'45''E

Tanzania, United Republic Of


soft sediment

Drilling Data

Drilling Depth: 623.0
Core Yield: 573.0
Core Length: 616.0
Amount of Drill Holes: 7
Amount of Drill Locations: 2

Core Length-Drill Depth-Ratio: 91.97
Core Yield-Core Length-Ratio: 93.02


This proposal requests support for drilling operations in Lake Malawi, in the southern end of the East African Rift Valley. Lake Malawi is one of the world’s largest, deepest (maximum water depth of 700 m), and oldest lakes (2- 7+ ma). It is the largest lake in the southern hemisphere after Lake Tanganyika, and is situated between 9 and 14 S. It is one of the most exciting sites on the continents for paleoclimate studies at that latitude and occupies part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the archetypical continental rift system. Key Scientific Questions and Objectives The principal objectives of the proposed drilling program were presented, reviewed and refined at a recent workshop on Scientific Drilling in Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika, held at Club Makakola, Malawi, in October 1999. Funds for the workshop were provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation and by the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. The top scientific objective of the project is to obtain a continuous, highresolution (annual-decadal) record of past climates in the continental tropics over the past ~800 kyr. Other primary scientific objectives of the drilling program intersect several fields, including extensional basin evolution and neotectonics, evolutionary biology, and the environmental background to human origins. Site Selection and Drilling Strategy Seismic site survey data is in hand for all the proposed drill sites. 1) The top priority site is situated in the central basin, southeast of the deepest part of the lake. It is here that seismic reflection site survey data indicate the best prospects for continuous cores of hemipelagic sediment. Such a depositional setting, in an area with no major stratigraphic hiatuses, offers the best chance to recover a continuous section of high-quality paleoclimate proxy records back through the Bruhnes-Matayama boundary. Thus a core through this site will allow us to construct a detailed chronostratigraphy, and be a basis for correlations between other sites that may contain punctuated paleoclimate records. 2) A site in the southern part of the lake (14S) will allow us to record a southern hemisphere tropical signal, as well as nearshore facies that developed during lake lowstands. 3) We intend to recover a series of cores along a northern basin "offset drilling transect" that will allow us to extend the stratigraphic record far back into the Pliocene or perhaps Miocene. In addition, a northern basin site is most likely to recover a section of finely laminated or varved sediments. Logistical and Engineering Considerations The drilling rig to be used for the project will likely be the GLAD800 lake drilling rig, a new facility recently funded to DOSECC by ICDP. The rig will be mounted on the barge Viphya, a 52 m vessel operated by Malawi Lake Services. Our project will require the installation of a moonpool and dynamic positioning system on the barge, for station keeping during drilling. An RFP will be issued to consider companies suitable for completing the barge modification as well as for barge operation. Drilling equipment mobilization will be completed at the port in Monkey Bay, and at the container facility in Chipoka, both in the southern part of the lake. Project Management Syracuse University will provide oversight of field operations, in conjunction with the investigators from other institutions, and with DOSECC, operator of the GLAD800 drilling rig. An on-site project manager will to report to the PI's, and be in charge of local logistics and day-to-day science operations. Personnel front the University of Rhode Island will oversee the operations of the whole-core logging facility, to be set up at the Senga Bay laboratory. The scientific roles for the PI's and collaborators are presented in section 6.2. Preliminary Operational Budget Total direct costs for field operations are $2.3 million USD. A major capital cost line-item included in this total is $600K for the purchase of a series of barge thrusters and a dynamic positioning system, for barge station keeping. We are investigating a variety of avenues of financing of such a system (including cost-sharing with NSF, ODP), which will be required for many future lake drilling and Ocean Drilling projects, and which could significantly lower the costs of this proposal. Most field operations will be operated through a subcontract to DOSECC, significantly reducing the indirect costs charged to the grant.

Related Publications

Mortimer, E. J., Paton, D. A., Scholz, C. A., Strecker, M. R. (2016). "Implications of structural inheritance in oblique rift zones for basin compartmentalization: Nkhata Basin, Malawi Rift (EARS)" Marine and Petroleum Geology 72 p110-121

Mortimer, Estelle, Kirstein, Linda A., Stuart, Finlay M., Strecker, Manfred R. (2016). "Spatio-temporal trends in normal-fault segmentation recorded by low-temperature thermochronology: Livingstone fault scarp, Malawi Rift, East African Rift System" Earth and Planetary Science Letters 455 p62-72

Mortimer, E., Paton, D. A., Scholz, C. A., Strecker, M. R., Blisniuk, P. (2007). "Orthogonal to oblique rifting: effect of rift basin orientation in the evolution of the North basin, Malawi Rift, East Africa" Basin Research 19 p393-407