The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is the United Kingdom's national Antarctic operation and operates five permanent research stations including Sky Blu located in southern Palmer Land, Antarctica. It is in an area of blue ice, an extremely hard and dense ice which has lost the air bubbles that normally cloud the ice.

In November-December 2015 Jialin Hong, PhD student of PRC and visiting researcher of BAS, tested the Rapid Access Isotope Drill (RAID) in terms of working principles, various drill components and drilling parameters within the group led by Dr. R. Mulvaney, Science Leader of BAS. RAID drill would be able to complete a 600m (~20% of ice sheet depth) borehole in just one week, before being redeployed at the next drilling location. The drill collects only ice cuttings, which can be used for isotope analysis and climate profiling, and leaves an access hole to allow deployment of a temperature-sensing cable. Both types of investigation and analysis will be used to identify potential sites for the recovering of the oldest ice.

Drill testing was carried out between the 27th of November and the 9th of December 2015. In the 12 days of testing both the concept of inner barrel rotation and outer barrel rotation of the RAID drill was tested and found to work with their own advantages and disadvantages. Four holes were drilled in two places of Sky Blu. Two holes were drilled near the runway (74° 51.823’ S, 071° 35.330’ W) and two holes – at the place of previous testing (74° 51.873’ S, 071° 35.932’ W). Although only four holes were drilled and the deepest one was 16 m both concepts of the RAID system were tested and different components were proved. Some engineering issues were identified and will have to be addressed including: communications with the drill regularly dropping out, pitch of the flights, length of the long spiral, seal of the LH gear box, shoes for drill head.

                                  Servicing RAID drill

                  Drill head of the RAID drill                                          

To learn more about RAID project visit https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/rapid-access-isotope-drill/

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