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Blue Hole Drilling Project



Blue Hole, BelizeSediment from the bottom of the Blue Hole, a 125 m deep Pleistocene sinkhole located in the lagoon of Lighthouse Reef Atoll, Belize, consists of undisturbed, annually layered biogenic carbonate muds and silts with intercalated coarser grained storm beds. Sedimentation-rate of layered sections is 2.5 mm/yr on average, and up to 6 m long cores collected during a pilot study span the past 1500 yrs. Oxygen isotopes of laminated sediment in these cores provide a late Holocene climate proxy: a high-resolution d18O time series traces the final Migration Period Pessimum, the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and the subsequent temperature rise. Carbon isotopes (d13C) decrease upcore and potentially show the impacts of the decline of the Maya culture and the Suess Effect. Time series analyses of d18O and d13C reveal 88, 60, 52, and 32 year cyclicities, and suggest solar forcing. Storm event beds are most common during AD 650-850, around AD 1000, during AD 1200-1300, and AD 1450-1550. Major storm beds are rare during the past 500 years BP.

The total Holocene marine sediment sequence in the Blue Hole alone can be expected to cover about 8 kyrs and more than 20 m of annually layered sediment, given the average sedimentation rate of 2.5 mm/yr and the early Holocene marine inundation of the Lighthouse Reef lagoon. Because the Blue Hole probably formed not only during the previous but during several Pleistocene sea-level lowstands, we expect similar, laminated marine sediments of previous Pleistocene sea-level highstands below the Holocene sediment package. We attempt to investigate this late Quaternary record in a core study within the framework of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP).

(Figure ©: U.S. Geological Survey)



Central America, Belize, Gulf of Mexico



17° 18' 56'' N, 87° 32' 4'' W (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • not yet determined


Principal Investigators
  • Eberhard Gischler, University of Frankfurt/Main, Institute of Geosciences, Geology
  • Eugene A. Shinn, University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, Department of Geological Sciences, College of Marine Science
  • Flavio Anselmetti, University of Bern, Institute of Geological Sciences



Belize, BLUE HOLE, Central America, Climate Archive, Climate Change, ICDP-2008/06, Quaternary, Sea Drilling, Sediment


Current State



Google Earth/Maps