Bombs away in Terra Nova Bay

8 February 2019

A team of Kiwi scientists have broken new research ground on the Priestley Glacier in Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica.

The team, which also included two Korean researchers, spent the past three weeks based out of Korea’s Jang Bogo Station.

Research lead University of Otago Professor David Prior says the aim is to find out what controls ice deformation and how ice sheets might respond to temperature changes or changing conditions on ice shelf edges.

“The research itself is really exciting; we drilled holes in the glacier, put explosives in them and then let them off.

“We recorded the explosions and ice behaviour through geophones and the speed of the sound waves will tell us about the physical properties of ice,” he says.

Professor Prior says the data they gathered was almost pristine and aligns with how they predicted the glacier would react, although there were a few surprises along the way.

“One of the things we did was record the glacier continuously, not just when we let explosions off.

“What we found was there is a massive amount of activity in the ice in the morning for about 4–5 hours as the day warms up. We think this has to do with the surface of the ice warming but it is going to need more investigation,” he says.

It is the first time this type of seismology research has been carried out on the shear zone of a glacier.

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Scientific Advisor Dr Fiona Shanhun says this work wouldn’t have been possible without support from the Korean Polar Research Institute.

“The team stayed at Jang Bogo Station which is the Korean base in Terra Nova Bay, about 350 km north of Scott Base.

“This collaboration demonstrates the importance of working with other National Antarctic Programs to better understand ice dynamics in a warming world, she says.


For more information please contact

Research lead

Professor David Prior

021 790 458

Antarctica New Zealand Communications Advisor

Georgia Nelson

027 841 4233