2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Developing New Science and Technology for Subglacial Studies of the Whillans Ice Plain and West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Program Manager:
Dr. Lisa Clough


ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Brian Johnson

Dr. Frank Rack (Principal Investigator)

University of Nebraska Lincoln
Department of Geosciences
Lincoln, Nebraska

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Sublacial Lake Whillans

Project Description:
The aim of the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project is to drill into the hydrological system beneath the Whillans Ice Stream at three different locations: Subglacial Lake Whillans at the top of the system; the subglacial river/stream between the lake and the grounding line; and the ocean beneath where the Whillans Ice Stream flows into the Ross Ice Shelf. This campaign will require three field seasons. During the first month of the 2012-13 field season, the drill system was tested on the McMurdo Ice Shelf. Later that season, the system was traversed to the top of the Whillans Ice Stream to begin penetration into Subglacial Lake Whillans. The drill system was left on site, and the rest of the project will be carried out over the next two field seasons.

Field Season Overview:
The 2012-13 season will begin with the assembly of the Hot Water Drill (HWD) system near McMurdo, after which it will be towed to a test site near the old ANDRILL McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) site. At least one hole will be melted through the ice here, with a second at least started. The main purpose of this phase of the season is to test setup/takedown/integration/operation of all of the equipment associated with WISSARD operations: The HWD, the science sleds and labs, and generators.

Once there is a solid grasp on the operation of the system and associated procedures, both on the HWD side and the science side of the hole, the USAP support contractor will traverse everything to either the Whillans Ice Stream Grounding Zone (GZ) or to a site atop Subglacial Lake Whillans (SLW). At this location at least one hole will be drilled through the ice to the subglacial environment and science operations will occur as time allows. At the end of the season, WISSARD equipment that can overwinter will be left at this site on berms and the rest will be traversed back to McMurdo.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Daren Blythe
  • Chad Carpenter
  • Dennis Duling (Team Leader)
  • Dar Gibson
  • Robert Powell
  • Frank Rack (PI)
  • Graham Roberts

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs