Australia is preparing 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 preparing a camp to support a 3 year science mission.

Over the 2022–2023 summer, a small team of expeditioners is building huts and timber platforms for tents in the Bunger Hills, an ice free area near the glacier.

The site is also the location of the seasonal Edgeworth David Base, which the team is restoring.

Over the 2023–2024 summer, the camp will accommodate 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). Expeditioners will also live there to provide support.

Key research questions will address the risk of ice mass loss on time-scales from the next few decades to centuries. The responses of biodiversity to climate and environmental change will also be examined. 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.

To achieve these objectives, a broad range of science will be conducted at the Denman Glacier, including:

  • 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 glacier and the Bunger Hills is located approximately 450 kilometres west of Casey research station.