Hot water drilling

Weddell Sea

Lat. 0°0'0"N, Long. 0°0'0"E

Scientists use hot water drilling technology to drill through floating ice shelves (up to 750 metres of ice) to gain access to the ocean below.

A variety of instruments can be lowered into the hole to capture a wide range of data.  These include:

  • Sub-ice shelf moorings to capture oceanographic measurements
  • Water samples  taken at discrete heights in the water column (while the hole is open/unfrozen)
  • Sediment cores from the ocean floor are planned to be recovered

A hot water drill can pump 90l of water per minute at around 90 °C . The drill itself uses petrol-fuelled generators, and the water-heaters are powered by aviation fuel.  The resultant 0.5 MW of heating power makes a 30 cm diameter access hole through the ice.


Filchner Ice Shelf System, Antarctica

Understanding the contribution that polar ice sheets make to global sea-level rise is recognised internationally as urgent.  The mission of this five-year project is to capture new observations and data …