A distinctive white sediment in the caves of Mulu, Sarawak, Borneo is a well-preserved tephra, representing a fluvially transported surface air-fall deposit, re-deposited inside the caves. We show that the tephra is not the Younger Toba Tephra, formerly considered as most likely. The shards are rod-shaped with elongate tubular vesicles; the largest grains ~170μm in length; of rhyolitic composition; and 87Sr/ 86Sr ratio of 0.70426±0.00001. U-Th dating of associated calcites suggest that the tephra was deposited before 125±4ka, and probably before 156±2ka. Grain size and distance from closest potential source suggests an eruption of VEI 7. Prevailing winds, grain size, thickness of deposit, location of potential sources, and Sr isotopic ratio limit the source to the Philippines. Comparisons with the literature give the best match geochemically with layer 1822 from Ku et al. (2009a), dated by ocean core stratigraphy to 189ka. This tephra represents a rare terrestrial repository indicating a very substantial Plinian/Ultra-Plinian eruption that covered the Mulu region of Borneo with ash, a region that rarely receives tephra from even the largest known eruptions in the vicinity. It likely will be a valuable chronostratigraphic marker for sedimentary, palaeontological and archaeological studies.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Gunung Mulu, Sarawak, SE Asia, Speleothem, Tephrochronology, U-Th dating, Volcanic ash
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yqres.2012.01.007
Journal Quaternary Research
Lundberg, J, & McFarlane, D.A. (Donald A.). (2012). A significant middle Pleistocene tephra deposit preserved in the caves of Mulu, Borneo. Quaternary Research, 77(3), 335–343. doi:10.1016/j.yqres.2012.01.007