Geological research in the past decades has established that the rocks of the Barberton‐Makhonjwa Mountains contain one of the world’s best records of the early history of the planet, including the origin and spreading of life, meteorite impacts, and the evolution of the atmosphere and the oceans.
Now, after a year-long COVID-enforced absence, a group of international geoscientists, will commence a scientific drilling project to boost geological research in the area and a better understanding of the early history of the planet.
The drilling will transect the 3.22 billion years old sedimentary rocks of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, the so-called Moodies Group, along the northern margin of the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains. These sediments were laid down in coastal plains, sandy beaches and estuaries of the early Earth.
The rocks also show that early microbial life was already well established in the hot oceans and extensive biomats along the shorelines.
The drill holes will produce cores, about 5 cm in diameter and up to 500 m in length, from each of eight planned holes.
These cores will be carefully described and investigated geochemically. Half will be permanently stored at the National Repository of drill cores near Pretoria while the other half will be curated at the core storage facility of ICDP in Potsdam (Germany).
The drilling project will therefore be complemented by a substantial education and outreach programme (EOP) before, during and after the drilling.
These activities will educate the public about scientific investigations in Geosciences (‘Drilling for Knowledge’) to create curiosity for and an appreciation of nature and Earth history.
The project also ultimately wants to promote the greater values of the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site, including its value as a tourist attraction.
For more information on the Barberton‐Makhonjwa Mountains and efforts to have it declared a World Heritage Site, click here.