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
Glacial-interglacial history of West Antarctic nunataks and site reconnaissance for subglacial bedrock sampling

Program Manager:
Dr. Julie Palais


ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Elizabeth Kauffman

Dr. John Stone (Principal Investigator)

University of Washington
Department of Earth and Space Sciences
Seattle, Washington

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Whitmore Mountains / Nash and Pirrit Hills

Project Description:
This project’s long-term goal is to determine whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was substantially thinner in the past, by measuring cosmic ray produced nuclides in subglacial bedrock surfaces. The presence of cosmic ray produced nuclides would conclusively indicate that shielding ice cover was absent in the past. This project is the reconnaissance phase of the work, in which researchers will locate suitable drilling targets beneath the ice sheet. Specific objectives are: (1) Geological reconnaissance of the Whitmore Mountains, Nash and Pirrit Hills; (2) At each of these locations carry out densely spaced ice-penetrating radar surveys of the surrounding ice sheet to locate broad subglacial bedrock ridges suitable for cosmogenic nuclide sampling and measurements; (3) Collect bedrock samples and short-core depth profiles on the emerged parts of the same mountain ridges for cosmogenic nuclide measurements. These measurements will establish the history of ice-sheet cover at times when ice was thicker than present. Future subglacial bedrock measurements will address ice-sheet cover at times when ice was thinner than present.

Field Season Overview:
Six participants will deploy to McMurdo and thence to the field sites on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. LC-130 support will provide the initial put-in at the Whitmore Mountains camp site and the final take-out from Pirrit Hills. Camp moves to Nash Hills and Pirrit Hills will be accomplished by Twin Otter or by snow machine traverse. At the field sites, the field team will perform snow machine-based ground-penetrating radar and travel to outlying nunataks from each camp site.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Howard Conway (Co-PI)
  • Maurice Conway
  • Perry Spector
  • John Stone (PI)
  • Mika Usher

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