Saturday, May 22, 2010

Slice of ice

The Press (New Zealand): The Roosevelt Island site is located on the northern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, directly in the path of cyclonic storm activity which means there is the high level of snow precipitation needed for high resolution climate records. It is also an ideal site for research as it is one of only two grounded pinning points of the ice shelf where the biggest changes in ice shelf extent and behaviour are observed.

But because the site is about 750km from Scott Base, they will have to use small fixed-wing planes to get there and this limits the weight of equipment to be carried. Unfortunately, the drilling systems that are traditionally used to drill to such depths are incredibly heavy leaving the scientists a weighty problem.

Enter Alex Pyne, projects manager of the Antarctic Research Centre's science drilling office. Along with his team, he has managed to overcome this barrier thanks to a healthy dose of Kiwi ingenuity. He made a copy of a light-weight Danish drill rig never used for such a depth range then made modifications to increase its drilling capability. In doing so he created the only operational ice-core drill that is lightweight but capable of drilling down to 1000 metres.

…Butler says this encapsulates Antarctica New Zealand and the Government's strategy for Antarctic science to have practical benefits for New Zealand. "Not a lot is known about Antarctica and its influence on the global climate, so by doing this sort of work it contributes directly with the science strategy that we're putting together and it has a real outcome that helps New Zealand do its job as an international player in this area."...

The Ross Ice Shelf in 1997, shot by NOAA

No comments: