Antarctica deep drilling project gets go ahead

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AUCKLAND (AFP) Oct 02, 2003 New Zealand scientists have won approval to drill up to two kilometres (1.3 miles) under Antarctica to study ice sheet movement, New Zealand’s the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) said Thursday. The five-year, 40 million dollars (23 million US) project will see two deep cores drilled into Antarctica’s sedimentary archives.

GNS said by studying deposits from a time when Earth’s climate was warmer than today and when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were higher, researchers aim to improve predictions on ice sheet behaviour over the next two centuries. The project will be funded by Britain, Germany, ITALY, New Zealand and the United States and will be coordinated by Gary Wilson of New Zealand’s Otago University.

Drilling is scheduled to start in the southern hemisphere summer of
2004/2005. This summer, starting in November, a team of 20 scientists and technicians will complete geophysical investigations of the two drill sites. The first drill site, staffed by US and ITALIAN scientists, will involve drilling through 1.5 metres (five foot) of ice, 500 metres (1650 feet) of seawater, and then up to a kilometre (0.6 of a mile) into the seabed.

The second site, manned by New Zealand and Germany, will involve drilling through 200 metres (660 feet) of the floating Ross ice shelf, then through
900 metres (2800 feet) of seawater, and finally a kilometre (0.6 of a mile) into the seabed.

Tim Naish of GNS said sediment and rock on the edges of Antarctica contained an untapped record of past polar climate.”By interpreting these stored signals, the worldwide scientific community will be able to make better predictions of future climate and environmental change,” Naish said.”Antarctica is a major driver of oceanic and atmospheric conditions worldwide, but the mechanisms by which it does this are poorly understood.”
(Agence France-Presse)