This short article provides detailed descriptions of custom-made and commercially available hand-held drilling gear and options for water-flushing units specifically designed to obtained good-quality core material from speleothems even in remote cave regions. We use small-diameter (6-7 mm) diamond drill bits to obtain aliquots of calcite (as little as a few hundreds of milligram) from the interior of the basal part of in-situ stalagmites. These small cores are used to date the onset of stalagmite growth and occasionally to obtain other compositional information. Larger diameter drill bits produce cores 25-32 mm in diameter and up to 1.3 m in length which reveal internal structures and provide axial transects for chemical and isotope analysis and material for preparation of thin sections. This system has been successfully employed to sample flowstone and thick stalagmites. Given the growing interest in speleothem as archives of past environmental change, careful sample selection is primordial to keep the impact of sampling in these unique environments at a minimum. Low-invasive drilling is an essential technique and maximizes the amount of information gained.
Spötl, Christoph and David Mattey.
Scientific drilling of speleothems – a technical note.
International Journal of Speleology,
Available at: http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ijs/vol41/iss1/4