A traverse train on the frozen continent. Picture: AAD
A traverse train on the frozen continent. Picture: AAD

Hardcore horsepower to aid Antarctic mission

POLAR researchers could soon extract a million year ice core after the Australian Antarctic Program today announced a new fleet of heavy tracked vehicles to support deep field operations on the frozen continent.

The heavy-duty upgrade to ground transport is set to support Australia's scientific and operational needs in Antarctica for the next 20 years.

Australian Antarctic Division researcher with an ice core. Picture: AAD
Australian Antarctic Division researcher with an ice core. Picture: AAD

In 2016, the Federal Government committed $45 million to develop overland traverse capability to drill for the million-year ice core as part of the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.

Project lead Anthony Hull said the new equipment would take researchers to places never accessed before.

"This is a step-change in our ability to rapidly move large quantities of cargo and equipment deep inland in all weather conditions, and into areas that we can't traditionally access by aircraft," Mr Hull said.

"It allows us to deploy scientists and support teams to some of the most remote and extreme parts of the Antarctic ice sheet for extended periods of time."

An AAD ice-core driilling camp. Picture: AAD
An AAD ice-core driilling camp. Picture: AAD

The new system will deploy five heavy tractors and two snow groomers to tow sled trains for food supplies, accommodation needs, scientific facilities and up to 160,000 litres of fuel.

The traverse, which can reach up to 1500km inland, will be managed by a team of eight expeditioners.

"The first expedition is planned to depart Australia's Casey research station in early 2021 and set up a mobile research station 1200km inland at a location known as Dome C," Mr Hull said.

"The station will be capable of supporting up to 16 people, flying in to undertake scientific research for up to three months."

Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Dr Tas van Ommen said the new transport capability

would create ambitious future science projects including the search for the Earth's longest continuous ice core climate record.

"The million year ice core will be a window into a time when a major shift in the Earth's climate system took place, and when the regular pacing ice ages gradually slowed," Dr van Ommen said.

"We are working closely with our international collaborators to understand what caused this shift, because we believe it can help us better understand present day climate change."

Australian researchers will soon be able to travel to areas previously inaccessible. Picture: AAD
Australian researchers will soon be able to travel to areas previously inaccessible. Picture: AAD


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