Feeds

Antarctic boffins obtain prehistoric deep ice core sample

Expedition returns from isolated, stormbound camp

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

'The expedition FROM HELL'

"It was the field season from hell," says Mosley-Thompson, professor of geography at Ohio State University and leader of the project. "Everything that could go wrong did, and almost everything that could break did."

Ice cores stored in a snow trough at the Bruce Plateau camp. Credit: Ellen Mosley-Thompson, OSU

There were severe penalties for stealing cores to cool drinks.

One drill became stuck in the ice at a depth of 140m; a second, drilling a new hole, locked up at 383m. The boffins managed to modify a piece of kit intended to remove water from the drill hole to squirt antifreeze down it instead, freeing up the drill, but their problems weren't over. A drill motor broke and all three of the gearboxes brought with the expedition failed, forcing swearing scientists to build a new one out of parts salvaged from the wrecks. Supply and support flights had to be cancelled due to bad weather at the site.

"The guys on our team, Victor Zagorodnov and Vladimir Mikhalenko, engineered through each problem that arose and were really very creative," explains Mosley-Thompson.

The plucky boffins won through in the end, finally punching through to the underlying rock 445.6m below the drill rig after 28 days' gruelling effort. The resulting, record-breaking ice core was sawn up into 1m lengths and initially stored in snow trenches at the camp.

As weather permitted, the cores were flown out to the Rothera station and stashed in freezers. They will be picked up from there by a US research ship and are expected to reach America for analysis this (northern-hemisphere) summer.

Mosley-Thompson and her colleagues are hoping that their core - perhaps jointly with another 363m one drilled in 2007 by the British Antarctic Survey - will unravel the entire history of the Larsen shelf right back to the last ice age. This could help to answer the tricky question of why the Larsen shelf is behaving differently from the rest of Antarctica, and shedding ice rather than gaining it as is happening elsewhere.

Analysis of the two cores, yet to be completed, should offer some interesting insights. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.