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Conturines Cave: drilling deeper

Conturines Cave has been the subject of an international research project since 2011 with the aim to shed light on the climate history of the Dolomites using speleothem samples. During a first field campaign in July 2011 we obtained small-diameter drill cores of various speleothem generations including a thick basal flowstone that is present in most parts of the cave. U-series, palaeomagnetic and palynological observations indicate that the top of this flowstone is about 700-800 ka old and several magnetic reversals were identified in a core penetrating its deeper part. None of the cores, however, reached the base of the speleothem.
In order to obtain continuous, large-diameter (8 cm) cores of the entire flowstone succession we went back to this cave in November 2013, hauled up 600 kg of equipment by helicopter, and camped there for two days. Yuri Dublyansky, Manuel Egger, Gina Moseley, Robbie Shone and Christoph Spötl managed to drill three holes, two of which reached the underlying dolomite bedrock. Core quality ranged from satisfactory to excellent, and core recovery in the deeper sections proved to be challenging.
These cores will provide the basis for a continuation of the project focussing on palaeomagnetic and palaeovegetation studies.
Watch a video clip about this expedition on YouTube.
Photo credit: Robbie Shone