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Nearly $9 Million Awarded to UMD for Antarctic Research Rig

Posted at: 07/24/2014 10:46 PM

Mockup of the Five Main Parts of the RAID
Mockup of the Five Main Parts of the RAID
Photo: Courtesy: Prof. John Goodge

The University of Minnesota Duluth was recently awarded nearly $9 million to construct a new drilling platform for research in Antarctica. 

The Office of Polar Program at the National Science Foundation says the $8.97 million grant will build what's called the Rapid Access Ice Drill, called the RAID for short. 

Professor John Goodge, with the UMD geology department, is the lead principal investigator on this project. He says that nothing like this has ever been built before. 

In an e-mail, Goodge explained that they will be making a long borehole into the Antarctic ice sheet and then into the bedrock. 

Instead of a an ice coring operation, "our system will be quite a bit bigger in scale and because it uses jointed steel pipe will be more like an oil or gas drilling rig," Goodge said.

According to a release from UMD, this type of technology has never been tried in Antarctica and could provide a critical first look at the interface between the major ice caps and their geology.

What's unique about this system is the speed at which it will be able to operate. RAID will be able to take sample cores in less than 200 hours, according to UMD. That means a crew will be able to gather a sample in about 10 days before moving on to the next drilling site.

The samples will allow scientists to build a build a three-dimensional picture that has never been done before.

Construction of the drilling system will start next June, with field trials beginning in 2016, and the program planned to begin in late 2017.