Scientific drill cores from Lake Malawi provide the first continuous and high-resolution 1.2 million-year terrestrial record of past climates in East Africa. The multi-proxy climate signals extracted from these lake sediments reveal remarkable high-frequency and high-amplitude variability in effective moisture over this major southern hemisphere catchment. The level of Lake Malawi dropped more than 400 m at least 25 times over the past 1.2 million years, substantially impacting endemic organisms in the lake, and implying significant landscape variability over this time interval. This presentation provides an overview of the Lake Malawi Scientific Drilling Project, including basin framework seismic images from this enormous ultra-deep rift lake. This work and subsequent East Africa drilling studies are providing the environmental context for the origin of our own species.