Australia is conducting a major science campaign to study one of the fastest retreating glaciers in East Antarctica.

The Denman Glacier is vulnerable to climate change and alone holds a potential sea level rise of 1.5 m. To understand this important region, the Australian Antarctic Division is facilitating a three-year science mission to study the Denman Glacier system. 

Over the 2022–2023 summer, building supplies were dropped in to Edgeworth David base camp in the Bunger Hills – an ice free area near the glacier –  and a small team of expeditioners built huts and timber platforms for tents.

In later 2023, Edgeworth David was completed and 27 scientists from the AAD, the Australian Centre for Excellence in Antarctic Science (ACEAS), Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future (SAEF) and the Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (AAPP) spent eight weeks over summer, working on a range of projects examining the glacier system and the Shackleton ice shelf. 

The science conducted included: 

  • drilling and analysis of ice core records
  • analysis of subglacial hydrology and composition
  • collection and analysis of sediments to understand environmental histories
  • geological studies of the deeper-earth
  • ocean circulation and biogeochemical analysis
  • remote sensing and airborne radar
  • wildlife, microbial and biodiversity surveys
  • landscape and ocean mapping
  • deployment of autonomous monitoring stations

The research from the terrestrial (land) campaign will be linked with those of a subsequent marine science voyage in 2025.

This will support national and global decision making about climate change responses and deliver on priorities in the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan.

The Bunger Hills and the glacier system are 450 kilometres west of Casey research station.