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Drilling in the Dead Sea

19.12.2010, Age: 3931 days

Recently the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP) started drilling in the Dead Sea. With this project, ICDP wants to provide a unique, high-resolution record of lake levels and thus climate change in the area, which can then be correlated to global events. Scientists are studying everything from pore-water geochemistry, the deep-biosphere, tectonics and paleomagnetism.

Written by Dr Michael Lazar

The ICDP Dead Sea Drilling Project (DSDDP) is the brainchild of Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Moti Stein of the Geological Survey of Israel. The initial idea came about ten years ago: to core in the deepest part of the lake, in an area that in theory, was always covered by some form of lake. The project was finally approved by the International Continental Drilling Program (ICDP) in October 2009 and coring began in November 2010.

Drilling is taking place in 300 m of water. The first borehole cored 455 m of sediments providing a record that is estimated to go back 500,000 years. A parallel borehole is being cored in order to provide overlaps and collect sediments from depths where recovery was missing or low. At the end of the project, the cores will be shipped to Bremen in Germany, where they will be stored and studied for years to come.

The organization and running of such a large-scale project is difficult to say the least. This is an international cooperation (including Israel, Germany, the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority) and communication between the needs and scientific goals of the different participating parties is often not an easy task.

Unique sedimentary record

The deep borehole in the Dead Sea is one of the largest scientific projects to be carried out in Israel and is of world importance in the field of earth sciences, the study of environmental and climatic changes and earthquakes. It is vital to the understanding of the future of the Dead Sea, which has been nominated as one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

The Dead Sea, a terminal lake located along the northern extension of the Syrian-African rift system, is the lowest continental depression on Earth as well as one of the saltiest bodies of water. It is all that remains from a series of lakes that filled the area during the last few million years. Different sediments were deposited in the various lakes and provide an archive of ecological, hydrological and seismological conditions that existed in the area during the time of sediment deposition. The sedimentary record is unique due to seasonal deposition (providing a bi-annual layered archive similar to tree rings) and thus provides a means of paleo-environmental and paleo-hydrological analysis in extremely high resolution.


Additional information

For frequent updates (almost on a daily basis) and more information on the project, please check  ICDP-DSDDP Project Manager Dr Lazar's personal profile on COSIS.net, as well as the DSDDP blog.

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