Maren K891

From the 2019-2020 Field Season

1 March 2020

Drilling more 600 metres through the world’s largest ice shelf at the Siple Coast

Field teams (event numbers 862 and K863) working to understand the stability of the Ross Ice Shelf during past warm periods had a hugely successful season at the Siple Coast at the Kamb Ice Stream. The Siple Coast is nearly 1000 kilometres from Scott Base, this multidisciplinary research is supported by a traverse across the Ross Ice Shelf, and scientists are flown in.

After geophysical surveys were carried out, the team reached a critical milestone, successfully using hot water to drill 600 metres through the ice shelf. An ocean mooring was deployed in the cavity below that will take continuous measurements over the coming years. Scientists obtained the first images from under the ice shelf from a high definition camera and marine sediment cores were retrieved. The team also worked with US collaborators to deploy the Icefin, a sleek under-ice oceanographic robot, through the drill hole to survey the ocean cavity below.

As well as Antarctica New Zealand field support staff, this field work involves an impressive team of researchers from Victoria University of Wellington, GNS Science, the University of Otago and NIWA.

Drilling at Siple Coast

Dating rock exposure to unlock ice sheet retreat, Byrd Glacier

Based at Scott Base and making daily trips to the Byrd Glacier, a team of researchers (event number K861) carried out rock sampling to study glacial retreat. By investigating the age of the rocks in the region, cosmogenic dating allows scientists to measure how long the rocks have been exposed, or ice-free. Determining the age of these samples will help reveal rates of change in ice elevation and how quickly ice mass may be lost in a warming world.


Installing GPS stations on the Ross Ice Shelf

A team from Victoria University of Wellington (event number K045) successfully deployed two GPS Stations on the front of the Ross Ice Shelf at Coulman High. These permanent stations will investigate how fast the ice is moving and how this flow pattern is slowing and accelerating. The initial plan was for five stations, but weather delays only allowed the team to access two sites this season.

Project One GPS on RIS Medium

Diving in the Dry Valleys

A collaboration with the US Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) group, saw a team at Lake Fyxell in the Taylor Valley (event number K882) studying how microbial mat communities respond to rising lake levels. The research focuses on community dynamics between the transitional zone between land and lake. The team dived in the lake, carrying out experiments and deploying instruments that will help quantify the contribution of these dynamic zones to lake and soil ecosystems. The aim is to see if these communities will retain their unique Antarctic characteristics in a changing climate.

K822 I hawes

Sea Ice measurements in McMurdo Sound

This team of two, including Maren Richter, the 2019 Antarctica New Zealand Sir Robin Irvine Scholarship recipient, successfully retrieved the sea ice mass balance station installed on the sea ice during the winter to download the collected data (event number K891). The obtained data provide important measurements of winter to spring sea ice growth near the ice shelf edge. The team also carried out two days of sea ice thickness traverses in McMurdo Sound which will help to ground-truth remote sensing measurements. The skidoo-based traverse was rougher than usual due to a large number of pressure ridges that had formed in the area.

Maren K891