Ongoing Project

Research on Walvis Ridge

Two month research project at Walvis Ridge as part of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), an international marine research collaboration

Project summary

The Challenge

Walvis Ridge presents a submarine barrier to ocean circulation in the South Atlantic and may have influenced climate in the geological past.

The Approach

Recovering basaltic lava flows and sediment to test hypotheses about mantle plumes, volcanism and effect on palaeoceanography and climate change.

The Outcome

The expedition is scheduled for December 2021 to January 2022.

Lead researchers

Project partners

The Challenge

Walvis Ridge presents a submarine barrier to ocean circulation in the South Atlantic. Its evolution may have played a significant role in influencing climate in the geological past. It continues to affect the Benguela Current and associated gyres that transport cold nutrient-rich waters northward.

The Approach

The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) is an international marine research collaboration that explores Earth's history and dynamics using ocean-going research platforms to recover data recorded in seafloor sediments and rocks and to monitor subseafloor environments.

Dr Mike Widdowson, Lecturer in Volcanology and Geochemistry at the University of Hull, is part of an international team of leading geoscientists who will spend two months at sea as part of an IODP Program expedition.

The team will travel on the Joides Resolution drill ship to core at six locations on Walvis Ridge in the South East Atlantic Ocean. Recovering successions of basaltic lava flows and overlying sediments, the researchers will test hypotheses about mantle plumes and Walvis Ridge volcanism, as well as its effect on palaeoceanography and climate change.

Walvis Ridge – ‘walvis’ means whale in Dutch and Afrikaans – is a submarine ‘mountain’ chain associated with the opening of the South Atlantic Ocean. It stretches around 3,300 km to the active volcanoes Tristan and Gough, to the Namibian coast, and to the Rio Grande Rise oceanic plateau off Brazil. The ridge is one of few examples of a hotspot seamount chain that links a flood basalt province to an active hotspot; and is one of few primary or deep mantle hotspots.

Initial eruptions formed the Etendeka-Paraná continental flood basalts some 135 to 132 mega-annum(Ma). Next, it formed a narrow ridge, before ‘splitting’ into three seamount chains. In 2001 and 2002, hundreds of volcanic explosions were recorded on Walvis Ridge – originating from an unnamed seamount on the northern side of the ridge.

The expedition is scheduled for December 2021 to January 2022.