British scientists have used a hot water drill to dig a 760 meter borehole through the Antarctic ice sheet. The weirdly long ice hole is the largest in West Antarctica so far and should improve our understanding of climate-induced sea-level rise.
This project, carried out by the British Antarctic Survey, is entitled "Bed Access, Surveillance, and Ice." Sheet History "or BEAMISH. It started 20 years ago and in 2004 the scientists tried unsuccessfully to drill a hole. All these years of hard work and planning, it seems, have finally paid off.
On January 8, a crew of eleven BEAMISH team members finally reached the bottom of the sediment after 63 hours of uninterrupted drilling, according to a BAS press release. From top to bottom, the hole is 2.1 miles (2.1 miles) long. This is the length of 20 soccer fields, which are arranged throughout.
"I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I am pleased that we have finally achieved our goal," said BAS's senior scientist Andy Smith in a statement. "There are gaps in knowledge about what's happening in West Antarctica, so if we study the area where the ice is on soft sediment, we can better understand how that region can change in the future and contribute to global sea-level rise . "
This ice hole is now the deepest ever made with a hot water drill in West Antarctica, the BBC reports. BEAMISH is currently working on the Rutford Ice Stream, a fast-flowing West Antarctic ice stream. The deepest borehole ever drilled in the Antarctic is for the 2,414 meter deep hole that forms the IceCube Neutrino Observatory near the South Pole.
As soon as they reached the bottom of the ice sheet, BEAMISH team members sent down various instruments through the hole to detect ice temperature and water pressure, and to detect deformation within the ice cover.
As mentioned earlier, the main concern of the BEAMISH project is to learn more about sea-level rise. Scientists are currently experiencing difficulties in understanding why sea level rise is faster than expected and how long this process could last. As stated on the BEAMISH website, the project attempts to "understand the past behavior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet … [and]. the flow of fast "ice streams" that derive it. By measuring the surface of the ice and drilling into the bed of the Rutford Ice Stream, we will see how long the last ice leaf has completely disappeared and how water and soft sediments have quickly melted the ice on its journey in the sea. "
Keith Makinson, a physical oceanographer at BAS, said warmer seawater is breaking many West Antarctic glaciers.
"What we are trying to understand is how slippery the sediment beneath these glaciers is and how fast they could drain from the continent into the sea," he said in the BAS statement. "This will help us determine the future rise in sea level of West Antarctica with greater certainty."
On January 22, BEAMISH drilled a second ice hole, and another kilometer is planned. The team will work in the Antarctic until mid-February.
Antarctic scientists are about to drill into one of the most remote lakes in the world.
Under 4,000 feet of Antarctic ice lies Lake Mercer, a subglacial body of water that has formed.
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With summer in full swing in Antarctica, scientists are working hard. In addition to this project, the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) team drilled a 4,000 foot well at the end of December and reached a waters known as Lake Mercer below.
"I think it's the season when ice holes are made.
[British Antarctic Survey, BBC]