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Hot-water Drilling Project at Amery Ice Shelf

Ice shelves form at the margins of Antarctic ice sheet, where the ice becomes thin enough to float free of a bed that lies below sea level. Ice shelves range in thickness from less than 100 to over 2000 m and individually cover areas of up to 0.5 mln. km2. The Amery Ice Shelf is the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica at the head of Prydz Bay with area of 62 620 km2.

Hot-water drilling project at Amery Ice Shelf employs a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the region. The project includes drilling of access holes using hot-water drill system, ice sampling of the most interesting intervals with hot-water corer, oceanographic observations, sampling of sediments beneath ice shelf, real-time video camera borehole and ocean cavity recording. The borehole with minimal diameter of 400 mm should be kept open 3 to 4 days for observations. It is planned to drill 10-12 holes from the edge of the ice shelf to grounding zone at intervals of near 50 km.

The hot-water drill system is composed of reels with hoses, generators, fuel tanks, water tank, high-pressure pumps, boilers and central control building. The main drill-hole nozzle is equipped with sensors to measure borehole diameter, pressure and temperature. In order to avoid water loss in the near surface permeable snow-firn layer, an independent electro-thermal drill was built for predrilling to the depth of 40-50 m.

The designing of the main components of hot-water drill system are already finished and tested at the experimental site of Polar Research Center in Changchun. The system is planned to transport to Zhongshan Station, East Antarctica for field testing as soon as full logistical support is obtained for the project. The project is sponsored by Ministry of Science and Technology of China (project No XXXXXX). Polar Research Center is involved to the project as copartner with PRIC as umbrella organization.

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