On Tuesday 21th of December 2004 a European team involved in Epica (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) reached the drilling depth of 3270.2, which is five meters above the bedrock at Dome C, on the central plateau of the east Antarctic ice sheet. The ice is melting at the bedrock and it has been decided to stop at this depth to avoid any danger of direct contamination of the basal water. The drilling operation has therefore been terminated.
The drilling has been very successful and has been followed by a wide community of ice and climate researchers. The 70 meters of ice drilled this season completes a long venture started in 1996. The core has already led to the release in the scientific journal ’Nature’ last June of a 740,000-year record of Antarctic climate. The new piece of core will extend the record to an age estimated to be more than 900.000 years old. This is the oldest ice that has been recovered from deep ice cores. The basal ice has ice crystals, some bigger than 40 centimetres and we have observed many inclusions of brown/reddish material mainly between the big ice crystals.
The prospect of the new and unknown information to be found by studies of the ice from the Epica DomeC ice core is fascinating and may have a profound impact on our understanding of the Earth’s climate and environment.
Ingrid Zondervan | alfa
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