23 Dec 2012

Ice core success in Ross Sea

7:47 am on 23 December 2012

A team of scientists has successfully drilled through 763m of ice on an Antarctic island to obtain sediment from the last 30,000 years.

AAP reports the project took years of planning and four summers of field work on Roosevelt Island in the eastern Ross Sea.

The core will be flown to McMurdo Station before being shipped back to New Zealand in March.

Then a team of 50 scientists from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, China, Sweden, the United States and Britain will start to take more than 100,000 samples from it at a special facility in Lower Hutt.

"I am thrilled with the team's success," said team leader Nancy Bertler of Victoria University. AAP reports she was on Roosevelt Island on Thursday night when the drill bit, after piercing the ice, and brought up 40cm of Roosevelt Island sediment.

"The drill cores will provide the most detailed record of the climate history of the Ross Sea region for the last 30,000 years - the time during which the coastal margin of the Antarctic ice sheet retreated following the last great ice age."

The sediment may reveal what the region was like the last time Earth's climate was as warm as it is today.

Roosevelt Island is nearly 1000km from Scott Base, which is in the western Ross Sea.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson said that supporting such a major field operation had been challenging and complex.

"This is a marquee project for Antarctica New Zealand and we are very proud of the success of Nancy Bertler and her team," he said.