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Sea Ice Profiling - "Digging and Drilling 101"

Posted by Conservators on Aug 11, 2010 1:10:21 PM

Mindy                      August 4, 2010


Temperature:           -17.0°C
Wind Speed:           10 knots
Temp with wind chill: Approximately -30°C
Moonrise:                Below horizon
Moonset:                 Below horizon

 

When we arrived at Scott Base (New Zealand’s Antarctic research station) in February, pools of open water were everywhere.  It was hard not to notice the waters of McMurdo Sound through breaks in the ice.

 

Open waters of McMurdo Sound resized.jpg

The open waters of McMurdo Sound, as viewed from Observation Hill in March. When the sea ice freezes over,

the Cape Armitage Loop runs directly through this area.  © AHT / M. Bell

 

After months of winter, these pools have frozen over.  It is now possible to assess the potential for local travel over the sea ice.  Armed with flags, a GPS unit, measuring tapes, shovels, hot chocolate and a very large drill, we ventured out on to the sea ice.  With Tom, Scott Base winter manager, at the helm, we followed the Cape Armitage GPS route at a cautious pace.  Observing the landscape closely, we stopped to measure, assess and mark potential dangers like cracks in the sea ice.  We also stopped to determine the ice’s thickness at specific points along the route.

Digging into the snow resized.jpg

Digging down through the snow to find the ice surface, with Observation Hill in the background.

© Antarctica New Zealand / T Arnold

Drilling into the ice resized.jpg

Drilling into the sea ice to determine its thickness

© Antarctica New Zealand / T Arnold

As a general rule, a minimum of 75 cm of ice is required for sea ice travel.  Measurements gathered from our trip suggest the portion of the route we surveyed is good to go.  When the route is completely profiled, the path of safe travel will be marked with flags and the fun can begin.  Me, I’m keen to get out for a good ski!    

 

 

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