Buried Ice in Antarctica 2012


2008 Expedition You can also read Jackie's journals from her expedition in 2008, also with Dr. Marchant here.

What Are They Doing?

Setting up a drill site in the Dry Valleys, AntarcticaSetting up a drill site in the Dry Valleys, Antarctica A small team of earth scientists and engineers used a specialized drill to reach buried ice deposits in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. Stagnant and/or slow moving debris-covered glaciers may contain ice several million years in age. By comparison, the oldest ice yet cored from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is approximately 1 million years old. As a result, these buried ice deposits hold an ancient archive of Earth's past atmospheric conditions. Each ice core enabled the research team to gain access to a reliable record of atmospheric and climatic change extending back for many millions of years, making it by far the oldest ice yet known on this planet.

In addition to drilling for ancient ice, the team worked in the Dry Valleys to seek a better understanding of surface processes that play a critical role in maintaining and/or modifying buried glacier ice. Despite their age and potential to register long-term climate change, there has been surprisingly little research on the geologic and geomorphologic processes that both preserve and modify debris-covered glaciers in Antarctica. In addition, the cold polar desert of the Dry Valleys is one of the most Mars-like climatic environments and landscapes on Earth, serving as a proxy for very ancient ice buried on Mars and providing insight into Martian history and the potential for life on Mars.

Where Are They?

Beacon Valley, AntarcticaBeacon Valley, Antarctica The team flew to McMurdo Station on a C-17 aircraft and then to various field sites within the Dry Valleys via helicopter. Transportation around field sites was on foot, up to 8 miles per day. The field sites were rustic with each individual sharing a Scott tent for sleeping and all members sharing a dedicated cook tent for meals.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys are located on the western coast of McMurdo Sound and form the largest relatively ice-free area on the Antarctic continent. The perennially ice-covered lakes, frozen alpine glaciers, and extensive areas of exposed soil and permafrost within the McMurdo Dry Valleys are subject to low temperatures, limited snowfall, and salt accumulation.

Expedition Map


Photograph of Jackie Hams
Heading Home I am back at McMurdo preparing to leave the ice and return home. Although there were frequent weather delays, the time spent at the central Beacon Valley site turned out to be an expedition highlight for me in terms of making the Antarctic Dry Valleys/ Mars connection. Feel free to check back for lesson plans from this expedition which will be posted in the future. Here are some final photos I would like to share from this 2012 expedition. Photograph of Beacon Sandstone and volcanic rock. Photograph of Cavendish Ice Falls. Changing sea ice in McMurdo Sound. The Ice...
Jackie Hams examines buried ice.
There are similarities in the type and range of glacial features observed in the Antarctic Dry Valleys and on Mars. This journal focuses on the similarities between glacial landscapes on Earth and Mars. Watch my video introduction below and I will present some photographs of glacial features that are present in Central Beacon Valley and on Mars. http://youtu.be/nCgZAWYCrPE Debris-covered Glaciers and Viscous Flow Debris-glaciers are characterized by thick piles of ice which move in a slow viscous motion. Most debris-covered glaciers originate through accumulation of debris on alpine...
Photograph of Sean Mackay and GPR instrument
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) is one of the instruments being used during the 2012 season to determine the presence and depth of buried ice in areas of the Dry Valleys. Sean Mackay prepares the Ground Penetrating Radar unit. What is Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)? GPR is a geophysical technique that collects and records information about the subsurface without digging it up. GPR can detect underground water, rock structure, buried ruins and many other types of objects. A radio wave signal is shot directly at the ground by a transmitting antenna. This signal will travel through the...
Another day - different weather. Notice the clear blue skies in the background! Select the link below for a video interview with the featured researcher from this expedition, Sean Mackay, who will explain the focus of his research in Antarctica. I met Sean in 2008 which was the first Antarctica experience for both of us. Sean has been instrumental in setting up the LAVC/Boston University videoconferences and has contributed to our education and outreach goals over the past few years. He will be moving on this year after the completion of his dissertation and will be missed. http://youtu....
In case you are wondering why I have not posted lately, do you remember in a previous journal that I stated one of the hardest parts of the Antarctica experience is the weather? See the video below. Please continue to follow the team journal and I will catch up on postings when I am out of the deep field camp and can resume communications. There is more to come including Ground Penetrating Radar, a featured researcher, and of course, great photos. http://youtu.be/a7utr7IKfXY

Expedition Resources

Project Information

15 November 2012 to 20 December 2012
Location: Beacon Valley, Quartermain Mountains and McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: Quantifying surface processes above buried ice in Antarctica: Implications for terrestrial climate change and glaciation on Mars

Meet the Team

Jacquelyn Hams's picture
Los Angeles Valley College
Valley Glen, CA
United States

Jacquelyn (Jackie) Hams is an Associate Professor of Earth Science at Los Angeles Valley Community College, where she teaches Physical Geology, Introduction to Oceanography, Environmental Science, and Planetary Science to many first generation college students. Ms. Hams has a scientific background in environmental and subsurface investigations in terrestrial and marine environments and experience working with Fortune 100 companies as an environmental consultant and as a petroleum geologist. Ms. Hams holds a Master's degree in Geology and enjoys sailing and outdoor photography.

Dave Marchant's picture
Boston University
Boston, MA
United States

Dr. Dave Marchant has led 21 field expeditions to Antarctica. His research interests are in the fields of glacial and periglacial geomorphology, global climate change, and planetary geology. In his research, he links traditional geomorphic field observations in ice-free areas of the continent with state-of-the-art geophysical, remote sensing, and dating techniques. Dr. Marchant is currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Earth Sciences at Boston University. You can read more about Dr. Marchant and his research here [http://people.bu.edu/marchant/research/buriedice.html]