26 September 2023

AAD opens new chapter in Antarctic science

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The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has collected 200 years of Antarctic history from a remote summit holding some of the world’s oldest ice.

Traverse Field Leader at AAD, Sharon Labudda said the scientific quest began on 23 December with a team of 10 people leaving Casey research station for Little Dome C – the site of the Million Year Ice Core.

“This project is one of the most important Antarctic science quests ever undertaken by Australia and will provide new information to test climate models and resolve long-standing questions about the timing of ice ages,” Ms Labudda said.

“This summer the team successfully proved a safe path to the site while testing tractors and traverse machinery all required to transport people and equipment,” she said.

“Scientists collected the first ‘shallow’ ice cores – ice from the surface down several metres that holds important initial information on snow chemistry.”

Ms Labudda said the cores would be flown back to Australia later this month, “increasing our knowledge on the best way to safely transport the precious cold cargo”.

She said the team racked up more than 2,300km traversing across previously untravelled icy terrain, moving in a convoy of five modified tractor trains pulling a mobile station on sleds.

“Blizzards, temperatures to -44°C and hardened snow dunes known as ‘sastrugi’, were just a few of the challenges that stood in the team’s way and put the tractor trains and traverse capabilities to the test,” the Traverse Field Leader said.

“Reaching the destination for million-year drilling was a huge accomplishment,” she said.

“Little Dome C isn’t just far away, it’s 3,230 metres above sea level at high altitude, so include that with blizzards and you have a very slow journey.”

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