Additions to article in Nature News
In the NatureNews arcticle "Speedy Antarctic drills start hunt for Earth’s oldest ice" the ongoing international activities for finding 1.5 Ma old ice were covered. Here we provide some additions to this article, as we had several requests on further details:
Q: Will the UK RAID drill retrieve the "Oldest Ice" in December 2016?
A: No. It will drill a 600 m deep hole, in which we can determine some of the ice properties like temperature, in addition to analysing the ice drill chips. This will then enable us to improve our estimates on how old the ice at the base of the ice sheet might be and whether it is worth deploying other drills there all the way to the bed. The first direct proof of old ice is expected in January 2018.
Q: Isn't there an easy way to get all the way to the bottom without major logistics?
A: Yes, an intermediate way: SUBGLACIOR is the only one that can perform online measurements but still requires major logistics which limits its radius of deployment. Here the miniature RADIX system comes into play, which has been developed by Jakob Schwander at the University of Bern. Similar to the UK RAID, the Swiss RADIX drill provides drill chips to be analyzed, but it is only 2.5 cm in diameter and can drill a 3 km hole in only about 2 weeks. Accordingly, this fast drill will be deployed around Dome C next year to access ice at the bottom of the ice sheet at several locations in the vicinity of the SUBGLACIOR probe.
Q: Why are several projects aiming to drill at the same sites?
A: That is somewhat unclear in the map. At Little Dome C, the EU project Beyond EPICA is investigating the site and - if positive - envisaging a deep drilling. This has been done so far in collaboration with Australian and US scientists.
At Dome Fuji, Japanese scientists already drilled a core in the past going back 700 thousand years. In cooperation with the Beyond EPICA activities this season for airborne reconnaissance, Japan considers drilling another core at a spot in that area where there might be older ice.
At Dome A, China will continue to drill. The US scientists hope to drill eventually somewhat away from Dome A, e.g. on its shoulder or along the Dome A-Dome F ridge. The very earliest that this could possibly happen would be the 2018-2019 season.