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Communication Associate: Public Relations | Lori Melton | | (218) 726-8830

March 13, 2013
John Goodge | Professor of Geological Sciences | 218 726-7491 |
John Rashid | Project Manager/Facilities Management | 218 726-6930 |
Cheryl Reitan | Associate Director of External Affairs | 218 726-8996 |

UMD Initiates Antarctica Drilling Project with New Design Contract

DULUTH, MN --- Researchers, led by John Goodge, Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), plan to design and build a new mobile drilling platform for use on the ice sheets of Antarctica. Named the Rapid Access Ice Drilling system (RAID), this type of platform/drilling system has never been attempted on ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica. The goal of the researchers is to gain rapid access to deep ice by drilling up to 3300 meters in depth. This endeavor has the potential to be scientifically transformative and is currently supported by a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

The project will give the polar scientific community access to a rich record of geologic and climatic change on a variety of timescales, from the billion-year rock record to thousand-year ice and climate histories. In doing so, the project leaders hope to fill in a deeper understanding of this critical, yet poorly-understood frontier area at the base of the ice sheet.

The new drilling platform will be mobile, logistically autonomous, and capable of drilling quickly in deep ice. It will enable a crew to start on one site to drill and core and then move to a second site within a few weeks. Several holes may be completed per three-month field season in Antarctica. It will be deployable in both East and West Antarctica. Once built, the drilling system will be established as an NSF-sponsored facility operated jointly by UMD and the Ice Drilling Program Office at Dartmouth College.

After drilling, the crews will take core samples of ice, the ice-sheet bedrock interface, and the bedrock below. Once a borehole is created, the hole will be kept open for several years to facilitate re-entry for ice logging and heat-flow measurement.

This drilling technology will provide an entirely new way to obtain down-hole measurements and samples of ice, glacial bed, and rock for interdisciplinary studies in geology, glaciology, paleoclimate, microbiology, particle physics, and astrophysics. More specifically, it will provide data for the study of lithospheric composition, heat flow, ice-sheet dynamics, climate history, and atmospheric greenhouse gas composition over the past 1.5 million years.

The University is currently entering into a contract with DOSECC Exploration Services, LLC, based in Salt Lake City. Phase 1 of the project entails completion of a buildable engineering plan for the RAID drill rig, a construction budget, and a deployment and operation plan. The finalized design, budget, and operation plan will be submitted to the NSF for review and authorization of Phase 2 funding to build the drilling rig. Design work will be completed by November 2013, and a completed drilling rig will be available for testing in January 2015. Shipment of the rig to Antarctica and initial deployment is expected in early 2016.

Key partners include: University of Minnesota; University of California-San Diego (Scripps Institution of Oceanography); National Science Foundation; DOSECC Exploration Services, LLC; and Antarctic Support Contractor (Lockheed Martin Corp.)

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