Centre for Geobiology

It can be difficult to infer detailed geological information from surface rocks because these are often badly preserved and greatly changed by the effects of weathering at the earth’s surface. Drilling into rocks allows you to get beneath the surface to collect pristine material in a continuous temporal sequence that is a physical record of geological history.

The Africa Earth Observation Network and Centre for Geobiology together undertook a scientific drilling project in summer 2008 that collected around 800m of core samples. Split lengthwise for studies in South Africa and Norway, the 90 boxes of core material will arrive in Bergen next month.

Learn more about the picture of split cores ... (photo credit Eugene Grosch)

This drill core from the Barberton Mountain land is c. 3.5-3.4 billion years old and contains evidence that dates back to the early Earth. This is a period of geological time known as the Archean and gives us precious insights into the climate and geological conditions at that time, regarded by geologists as the cradle for the appearance of life on earth.

Furnes, a geology professor at UiB leads a group of researchers who are currently pursuing research questions relating to the Early Earth and Biosignatures theme at CGB preserved in these rocks. The age of these rocks can be exactly calculated using trace amounts of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes and combined with a range of microscopic and geochemical tools this can reveal information about biological life on the early earth.

The microtubules in the microscope image provide evidence for microbial activity in ancient rocks

Preliminary examination of the drill core suggests that a more detailed analysis in the lab may provide information regarding the nature of seafloor hydrothermal activity in the Archean; along with data that will support or reject theories of a possible glaciation at this time; as well as more detailed information about the nature of the Archean ocean and atmosphere.

Learn more about this summer's field work from reports and pictures by Nicola McLoughlin (Bergen) and Eugene Grosch (Cape Town).

The map shows field areas where members of the Early Earth and Biosignatures Group are currently pursuing fieldwork, including drilling in the FARDEEP project in N Russia and the AEON-CGB Scientific Drilling project in South Africa, described here.