Million year ice core drill at the cutting edge

Designer drill video

Video transcript

Extreme Antarctic conditions require extreme engineering.

Australian Antarctic Division Project Manager, Matt Filipowski: “The materials being used in the drill need to be able to withstand minus fifty degree ice temperatures and also just to operate continuously in that environment.”

The Australian Antarctic Program is designing and building a unique ice core drill.

This new drill refines a design develop with international partners.

It’s nine metres long and made of specialised stainless steel, aluminium bronze and titanium.

The drill will delve 3000 metres into the Antarctic ice cap to extract some of the oldest ice on Earth.

Matt Filipowski: “There’s a sharp cutting tip at the end that works a bit like a hole saw and that cuts a plug out of the ice. Then the drill chamber actually holds that section of ice, and then we winch the drill all the way to the top, to the surface, and we take that long cylindrical core out and then start the process all over again.”

Three metres of ice core will be extracted at a time.

The cores hold chemicals and tiny bubbles of atmosphere from more than a million years ago.

This snapshot will help scientists better predict how the climate might change into the future.

Once built, drilling is expected to commence in Antarctica in 2021.

[end transcript]

Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, inspecting the completed ice core drill components
Minister for the Environment, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, inspecting the completed ice core drill components (Photo: Mark Horstman)
Ice core drill headAustralian Antarctic Divisionís Senior Technical Officer, Chris Richards, and Instrument Workshop Manager, Steve Whiteside with ice core drill partsPump assembly manufactured by the Australian Antarctic Division for the million year ice core drillIce core drill in actionDrilling camp at Aurora Basin NorthAir bubbles in thin ice core slice

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

The technicians are putting the finishing touches on an ice core drill ‘head’ that will eventually bore 3000 metres into the Antarctic ice cap to extract the world’s oldest continuous ice core, withstanding temperatures of minus 55 degrees along the way.

More information

Minister for the Environment The Hon. Sussan Ley MP Media Release