Sediment Core from Antarctica

December 11, 2006


Referred by: LuAnn Dahlman, Center for Earth and Space Science Education at TERC
Summary authors & editors: LuAnn Dahlman

As of December 1, 2006, the ANDRILL project (ANtarctic geological DRILLing) has recovered over 650 meters of sedimentary rock core from beneath the McMurdo Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The project is recovering sedimentary records from a down-dropping basin in an area with a high sediment supply -- the perfect combination for recording the succession of environments in this globally sensitive location. This core sample, from 132 meters below the sea floor, shows interbedded volcanic sands and silty clays. The large clast has a diameter of about 30 mm.

Scientists from four nations are analyzing and interpreting the ANDRILL rock core to build a detailed picture of the comings and goings of Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf over the past 5-7 million years. Their work will contribute to understanding the stability (or lack thereof) of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf through time. The purpose is to improve models that can predict the behavior of the ice shelf in the future, especially under conditions of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Over 80 ANDRILLians (scientists, drillers, and educators) are in Antarctica now, participating in this technologically challenging and globally significant work. By January 4, 2007, the drill should reach its goal depth of 1,200 meters below sea floor. Video journals, photographs, and blogs documenting the project are updated several times per week. See the related links below for more details.

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