Ice core drill 'head' prepared by Australian Antarctic Program

Australian Antarctic Program technicians are at the cutting-edge of a unique project to unlock the climate future, by discovering what changed the world one million years ago.

 A unique ice core drill ‘head’ is being machined for Australian Antarctic Program researchers

A unique ice core drill ‘head’ is being machined for Australian Antarctic Program researchers

Technicians are putting the finishing touches on an ice core drill ‘head' that will eventually bore 3,000m into the Antarctic ice cap to extract the world's oldest continuous ice core, withstanding temperatures of minus 55 degrees along the way.

The drill is machined from specialised stainless steel, aluminium bronze and titanium and will be able to extract cores up to 3m at a time.

Construction of the cutting head began in March with the 9m drill developed using European and US technology along with Australian innovation.

The project is part of an AUS$45 million (US$30 million) Federal Government commitment to maintaining Australia's place at the forefront of Antarctic science by developing its capability to travel deep inland with tractor-trains and a mobile research station.

Around one million years ago, the Earth's climate made a shift from a 40,000-year cycle of recurring ice ages to one every 100,000 years, for reasons that are not understood.

Air bubbles trapped deep in Antarctica's ice through this time will allow researchers to identify carbon levels and traces of chemicals that they believe could provide a clue to the cause of this climate shift and which could help map the long-term future of our planet.

Scientists will use the drill at a remote field camp, 1,200km inland in Antarctica, over a four-year period from 2021.

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