Until recently the Amazon Fan, a sediment column of around 10 kilometres in thickness, proved a hard nut to crack, and scientific drilling expeditions such as Ocean Drilling Program could only reach a fraction of it. Recent exploration efforts by Petrobras lifted the veil, and sedimentological and paleontological analysis on samples from two boreholes, one of which 4.5 kilometres below sea floor, now permit an insight into the history of both Amazon River and Fan.
Prior to this publication the exact age of the Amazon River was unknown and they say this research has large implications for our understanding of South American paleogeography and the evolution of aquatic organisms in Amazonia and the Atlantic coast. It is a defining moment as a new ecosystem originates which at the same time forms a geographic divisor.
Sediment column at the mouth of the Amazon River. Credit: NASA
Sediment aprons in the proximity of major rivers often hold continuous records of terrestrial material accumulated by the river over time. These records provide a unique insight into the historic climate and geography of the land. The information released from this 4.5 kilometre borehole is a scientific breakthrough and stresses the value of cooperation between academia and industry.
Article: J. Figueiredo, C. Hoorn, P. van der Ven and E. Soares. ‘Late Miocene onset of the Amazon River and the Amazon deep-sea fan: Evidence from the Foz do Amazonas Basin’. Geology, 37, 619–622.
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