Antarctic flights reveal what’s happening to the ICECAP

For almost a decade, teams of Antarctic scientists have spent their summers flying over the East Antarctic ice sheet, using sophisticated equipment and a trusty DC-3 plane to collect unique data about the ice below.

The ICECAP project (Investigating the Cryospheric Evolution of the Central Antarctic Plate) brings together the brainpower of experts from around the world to investigate how and why the ice sheet and ice shelves of East Antarctica are evolving.

This summer, Australian Research Council Antarctic Gateway Partnership scientists from IMAS, working with AAD and ACE CRC researchers, participated in the 8th season of the ICECAP project, which has been running out of Casey Station since 2009‑10.

IMAS’s Dr Felicity Graham said an exciting new aspect of the work was the opportunity to look at ocean temperatures near glaciers experiencing rapid melting from a warming ocean using Airborne Expendable BathyThermographs (AXBTs).KBA Base

Pictured: KBA Base: CHINARE aircraft on the left; ICECAP aircraft on the right. Photo: Greg Ng

“With the help of a fantastic crew from Kenn Borek Air (KBA), we flew geophysical surveys over the ice sheet and glaciers in the Casey region,” she said.

“The Basler (a modernised DC-3) aircraft we used was equipped with a suite of instruments to map ice thickness, internal layers of the ice sheet, and the depth and geology of the bedrock beneath the ice.Jason Beard

“The target glaciers this year were the Shackleton Glacier, approximately 600 km west of Casey station, the infamous and rapidly changing Totten Glacier, on the back doorstep of Law Dome, and the Moscow University Glacier, approximately 600 km east of Casey Station.

“Although we didn't make it to Dumont D'Urville this season, with some ideal weather conditions around Casey we managed to achieve our major science goals and more, fitting in a total of 15 flights over 74.5 flying hours and covering 21 550 km.

Pictured: Dr Jason Roberts (AAD) with an AXBT

“We deployed a total of 18 AXBTs: 11 along the front of the Totten Glacier, six near the Shackleton Glacier, and one in the region of Vincennes Bay.

“We will be looking at the data over the coming months to understand how masses of warm water are transported from the deeper ocean up onto the continental shelf and contribute to glacial melt,” Dr Graham said.

This research was supported under the Australian Research Council's Special Research Initiative for Antarctic Gateway Partnership.ICECAP team

·     Pictured: Icecap Project team photo: From left: Dr Lucas Been (University of Texas), Greg Ng (University of Texas), Dr Felicity Graham (IMAS, UTAS) Aaron Neyrinck (Kenn Borek Air), Dr Lenneke Jong (ACE CRC/IMAS, UTAS), Lucius Cirtwill (Kenn Borek Air), Wei Wei (University of Texas), Dr Jason Roberts (Australian Antarctic Division), Jamie Chisholm (Kenn Borek Air), and Dr Duncan Young (University of Texas). Photo: Stu Shaw

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
May 1, 2018