2002-2003 Science Planning Summary


Dr. Julie Palais
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 98-14574
Station: McMurdo Station
RPSC POC: Kirk Salveson
Research Site(s): Traverse from Byrd Surface Camp to South Pole

U.S. ITASE: Radar studies of internal stratigraphy and bedrock topography along the traverse
Dr. Robert Jacobel
St. Olaf College

Deploying Team Members: See U.S. ITASE Management (IU-153-A)
Research Objectives: The U.S. component of ITASE conducts radar studies to determine the internal stratigraphy and bedrock topography of the terrain along the traverses. This austral summer, team members plan to use one of the traverse tractors to tow a low-frequency, ice-penetrating radar system along the traverse routes. The radar data will depict bedrock topography and internal layers along more than 1,200 kilometers of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The researchers will also conduct more detailed studies on grids surrounding each of the ITASE 200-year ice core sites to characterize accumulation and bedrock topography in these areas. The grids will require 60 to 80 kilometers of radar profiles each, depending on ice thickness and bed topography.

This radar system works as a complement to that operated by the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). Theirís is a high-frequency radar, most suited to the shallower portion of the record down to about 60 meters. It can detect near-surface crevasses. The radar system of this project is most sensitive at depths below 60 meters and can depict deep bedrock and internal geological layers deep in the ice.

Field Season Overview:
The ITASE project team and support contractor staff traverse West Antarctica from Byrd Surface Camp (BSC) to South Pole Station. Two trains pulled by Challenger 55 Caterpillar tractors will transport personnel, instruments, and field camp equipment. Along the way, team members will collect ice cores and surface snow and ice samples, take meteorological readings, and collect radar profiles of the ice sheet. Periodically, Twin Otter aircraft will resupply the traverse team and transport samples back to Byrd Surface Camp. At the end of the traverse, the group will return to McMurdo Station where they will begin to analyze some of their samples. Other samples will be returned to their home institutions.