What's happening in Lancaster Hole's Graveyard Chamber?

Those of you who have been in the Graveyard recently may have noticed some scientific equipment in the chamber. Sarah White at Department of Earth Sciences, University College London is carrying out her PhD thesis in Lancaster Hole. Below is a precis of the work she is carrying out.

Why do this Project

Science Background

The Project

Links & References

Back to Science Page
I have been given access to a stalagmite that was collected from beneath caver-churned mud deposits in Lancaster Hole's Graveyard Chamber around 25 years ago. In certain circumstances, detailed chemical analyses of stalagmite calcite can provide information to allow reconstruction of surface level climate for the period of stalagmite growth.

The stalagmite I am working (Photos 1, 2 & 3) on has been uranium dated to reveal it grew between ~12.2 and 3.5 thousand years ago. In order to produce any kind of climate reconstruction for this period, and to establish as much as possible about cave conditions under which this stalagmite formed, it is useful to know about the modern day system.

The stalagmite


Photograph 1. Top section of a vertically sliced stalagmite from Lancaster Hole. The top of this slab has been uranium dated to have been deposited 3,572±79 years before present.

Photograph 2. Middle section of the same stalagmite from Lancaster Hole.

Photograph 3. Base section. The base of this slab has been uranium series dated to have been deposited 12,256±144 years before present.

The stalagmite was not found in situe; it is not known exactly where it formed. By collecting monthly drip water samples from several locations in the Graveyard Chamber (Photo 4), recording temperature and humidity levels in the cave (Photo 5), and through having access to present day surface precipitation conditions (as well as information obtained from the stalagmite itself), I am aiming to establish whether the Graveyard Chamber provided a stable environment for the stalagmite to have formed. I will then (hopefully!) be able to reconstruct the past climate (palaeoclimate) for the region for a significant part of the last 12,000 years (at least for the periods when the stalagmite was actually depositing).

Photograph 4. Drip water collection site in the Graveyard Chamber, Lancaster Hole

Photograph 5. Data logger recording cave temperature and humidity levels, Graveyard Chamber, Lancaster Hole.




Back to top

2004 - R.R.C.P.C.