Scientists and engineers have drilled a record-breaking 2,152 meters into a region in West Antarctica.
With the help of a radical how water drilling technique, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey team were able to drill through the ice and reach unexplored parts of the sediment below.
Among other things, scientists expect that this study will help them understand how the region responds to climate change.
The group was made out of 11 people working on the Rutford Ice Stream for the last 12 weeks in freezing temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.
To reach the sediment layer beneath the ice at 2,152 meters, the researchers drilled for 63 continuous hours.
After drilling was complete, researchers then sent down a number of scientific instruments that recorded water pressure, ice temperature, and the deformation of ice around it.
The project called the “Bed Access, Monitoring and Ice Sheet History” or BEAMISH, has been planned for 20 years.
Scientists attempted to reach the recently drilled depth in 2004 without success.
The primary goal of BEAMISH, as explained by their website is to understand “the past behavior of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet…[and] the flow of the fast ‘ice streams’ that drain it. Through measurements at the ice surface, and by drilling to the bed of Rutford Ice Stream, we will find how long ago the ice sheet last disappeared completely, and how water and soft sediments underneath it helped the ice move fast on its journey to eventually melting in the sea.”
“I have waited for this moment for a long time and am delighted that we’ve finally achieved our goal,” BAS lead scientist Andy Smith explained in a statement.
“There are gaps in our knowledge of what’s happening in West Antarctica and by studying the area where the ice sits on soft sediment we can understand better how this region may change in the future and contribute to global sea-level rise.”
As explained by the BBC, this ice hole is now the deepest ever made with a hot-water drill in West Antarctica.
Gizmodo reports that the deepest hole of any kind ever drilled in Antarctica is the 7,290-foot-deep (2,414 meters) borehole forming the IceCube Neutrino Observatory near the South Pole.
In addition to BEAMISH, we have the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) team, which, successfully drilled a 4,000-foot hole in December of 2018, reaching a mysterious subglacial body of water called Lake Mercer.