September 15th 2021

Replicas of drill cores from the time when the modern Earth system was established to be exhibited in Vienna

3D replica shown alongside the original cores from the Kola Peninsula. Photo credit: ICDP
Replicas of drill cores from the Kola Peninsula are to be exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. The original drill cores, which archive the Earth’s early history, were extracted during a project led by the Geological Survey of Norway.

“It’s great that the work we started 15 years ago is still producing results”, says Aivo Lepland, a researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway. “Tens of scientific articles have been published on the core samples including, most recently, the groundbreaking The grandest of them all (…) just a month ago. And now the project will even feature in an exhibition.”

Earth’s past climate

Towards the end of 2022, the Austrian museum’s newly renovated and modernised geological department will open an exhibition on Earth’s past climate, natural hazards and geological resources. Within the topic of palaeoclimatology, two scientific core drilling programmes – the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) – have been invited to contribute materials. 

“The project ‘Fennoscandian Arctic Russia Drilling Early Earth Project’ (FARDEEP), which was established under the auspices of the ICDP, involved drilling for cores and working with Russian core samples from both the Kola Peninsula and Karelia”, says Lepland. 

Researchers working on the original core samples. Photo credit: Geological Survey of Norway

The results have shed new light on fundamental global changes that occurred between 2 and 2.5 billion years ago, when an increase in oxygen levels in the atmosphere, called the “Great Oxidation Event”, triggered a chain of environmental upheavals including several “Snowball Earth” ice ages. These changes resulted in establishment of our modern oxygen-rich Earth.

Will be exhibited for ten years

“The replicas of the drill cores being exhibited in Vienna, which have been produced by scanning and 3D printing, will help to illustrate and explain the importance of having good records of Earth’s past climate. It is only then we can understand how the environmental conditions and climate changes over time”, explains Aivo Lepland.

The exhibition is using replicas because the original drill cores are valuable and still used in scientific studies. Moreover, they need to be stored in a controlled environment. The exhibition will run for more than a decade at the new geological department of the museum in Austria’s capital.

Excellently preserved

Uli Harms, who heads the ICDP’s Operational Support Group, stresses that the long-term storage and availability of the core samples is a key priority for the ICDP: “The spectacular cores from the FARDEEP project are excellently curated. Research communities are showing a continuing interest in data and samples from the cores, precisely because they have been so well looked after by the Geological Survey of Norway”, says Harms.

All of the key information about the cores has been made available online. In addition, FARDEEP has a large archive of thousands of previously taken samples, including crushed rock, thin sections and hand specimens. It is also possible to inspect and take samples from the original cores during sampling parties held approximately once a year at the Geological Survey of Norway.