Driller thriller: Antarctica's tumultuous past revealed


By Douglas Fox THE midnight sun hangs low in the sky on this November evening. A plain of flat ice sweeps in all directions and mountains rise in the distance. Perched on the sea ice is a massive, teepee-shaped tent. A mechanised rumble emanates from within. Inside the tent, men in hard hats tend a rotating shaft of steel. This drill turns day and night through 8 metres of sea ice covering the surface of McMurdo Sound, off the coast of Antarctica, and through 400 metres of water beneath it and into the seabed. It’s not oil these men are drilling for, but another precious resource – historical perspective that could help us to predict the future of sea level rise. Welcome to the Antarctic Geological Drilling project, or Andrill. (Image: Gavin Dunbar / Vuw) This international team is extracting two columns of stone from the sea floor. A few kilometres away, scientists at McMurdo Station, a US research base, work 24 hours a day to analyse them. The cores of stone are providing them with a record peering 19 million years into Antarctica’s history. We know that Antarctica froze 35 million years ago,
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