A group of scientists and engineers led by
British Antarctic Survey dug a 1.3-km deep hole through the ice in West Caribbean – the deepest hole ever made in the region using hot water, according to BBC News.
By reaching the base of Rutford Ice Stream, scientists hope to understand how the area responds to a warming
climate, according to a press release.
The project, called Bed Access, Monitoring and Ice Sheet History (BEAMISH), comes after 20 years of planning. Another hole was tried in 2004 but failed.
But on January 8, after 63 hours of uninterrupted drilling in temperatures as low as -22 ° F, the team broke the sediment 7.060 feet below the surface. A number of instruments were then threaded through the borehole to detect water pressure, ice temperature and deformation of the surrounding ice.
"I've been waiting for this moment for a long time, and I'm glad we finally achieved our goal," says lead researcher Andy Smith in the press release. "There are gaps in our knowledge of what is happening in West Antarctica and by studying the area where the ice sits on soft sediment, we can better understand how this region can change in the future and contribute to global
sea-level rise. "
Both Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets have melted in alarming rates in recent years due to the increasing temperature of the Earth. Vestantarktis, which has enough ice to raise the oceans 17.32 feet, is
considered one of the most unstable parts of the continent. The region now loses 159 billion tons of ice every year.
"We know that warmer seawater is falling off many of the glacier of West Antarctica," is Keith Makinson, a physical oceanographer at the British Antarctic Study, explained in the press release. "What we are trying to understand is how smooth the sediment beneath these glaciers is, and therefore how fast they can flow from the continent to the sea. This will help us determine future sea-going rise from West China with greater certainty."
The team has since drilled another hole on January 22 a few kilometers away from the first place. Research is expected to continue until mid-February 2018.
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