West Antarctica is largely ice-covered, which means its geological archives are hidden beneath a massive layer of ice. Drilling down into the ice is vital for accessing valuable records of past climate and ice sheet behaviour.
We are embarking on an ambitious drilling and research programme with international collaborators to obtain the sedimentary history at two locations near the modern grounding zone of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).
We will drill at two locations along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica, because this is where the WAIS first lifts off the seafloor and begins to float. Kamb Ice Stream is located beneath the floating ice shelf, close to the grounding zone of the WAIS. Crary Ice Rise ice sits directly on bedrock.
No one has ever drilled deep into the Antarctic seabed at a location so far from a major base, and so close to the centre of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The thin layer of ocean beneath the ice shelf at the study site has been accessed a few times, but a deep sediment core has never been recovered. We are trying to get beneath the ice shelf to access the seabed and give ourselves enough of a window to extract those sediment cores before the hole in the ice freezes up.
Our team and equipment will travel over 1,000 km to the sites by over ice tractor train traverse and by air. A tent camp will be established as our “home on ice” while we operate at each site for up to three months.