2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Mapping Antarctic subglacial water in three dimensions with novel electromagnetic techniques

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I-353-M Research Location(s): Whillans Ice Plain


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1643917

Program Manager:
Dr. Paul Cutler

ASC POC/Implementer:
Judy Shiple / Dean Einerson / Matthew Kippenhan

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Helen A Fricker
University of California San Diego
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, California

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Whillans Ice Plain


The Antarctic ice sheet is underlain by a dynamic water system that lubricates the flow of ice streams and outlet glaciers, provides a habitat for a diverse microbial ecosystem, and delivers freshwater and nutrients to the Southern Ocean. This team will use electromagnetic sounding to detect water at the ice-bed interface and in deeper groundwater reservoirs. Groundwater is estimated to be a significant part of the subglacial water budget in Antarctica, yet previous observational approaches have been unable to characterize its volume and distribution. This project will thus yield critical information about how ice-rock-water-ocean systems interact and inform our understanding of ice-sheet processes, global nutrient cycles, and freshwater flux to the ocean.

Field Season Overview

Two participants will travel with the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) GPS project (C-533-M) by LC-130 aircraft to Camp 20 on the Whillans Ice Plain. They will then travel by snowmobile to Camp GZ1 to conduct the first of two electromagnetic surveys, each requiring three weeks and consisting of 55 survey locations. The second three-week survey will launch from Upper Whillans (UpW) camp, after which they will break camp and traverse to GPS LA14 and to the remainder of the GPS stations along the SALSA traverse route to Subglacial Lake Mercer (SLM). The team will camp along the way until they reach the main SALSA drilling camp at SLM. From there, the two participants will return to McMurdo Station for gear return and redeployment.

Deploying Team Members

  • Chloe Gustafson
  • Kerry Key (Co-PI)