The University of UtahRedthread Home

Deep ice core recovered and buried water discovered

144087main_GREENLAND

The Arctic Circle Traverse 2011 (ACT-11) team finished a drilling a 60 meter (197 feet) deep core into the Greenland Ice Sheet yesterday.  This is the deepest core they drilled this year and it’s named ACT11-B.  The first two cores were 10 and 25 meters because they unexpectedly ran into a buried water layer at those depths.  This was surprising because the spring melt has not yet started at this location on the ice sheet, which means this subsurface water was stored within the glacier over the long cold winter. 

Once they found the water layer with the drill they mapped out its extent with their ice penetrating radar.  Back in Utah I looked at preliminary NASA airborne radar data acquired over the same area two weeks ago to determine if that radar system could also detect the subsurface water.  There was a strange response on the NASA radar image that no one knew for sure what it was, but it coincided exactly with the location and depth of the water layer discovered by the ACT team.  So team on the ground confirmed for the first time that this strange signal seen on the NASA radar images was buried water within the ice sheet!

Twin Otter landing in camp to retrieve core samples for transport back to a storage freezer in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

Also yesterday the two previously drilled cores stored in their boxes were picked up from the ice sheet by a two engine air plane called a Twin Otter equipped with skis (photo at left).  The Twin Otter flew the cores back to the village of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland for storage in a freezer. 

The team spent today driving their snow mobiles and sleds hauling the ice core drill, camping gear, food, fuel and an ice penetrating radar to the next core site ACT11-C.  Tomorrow they will begin drilling this site hoping to get 60 m of core over the next two days.

Ed. note:  A reminder to readers that you can track the team’s progress in real time by clicking here