Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

47. How does the ice core drill work. How do they drill a hole and get the core out?


T.J. responded by email:

I will try to put together a more in depth post on this question, but here’s the quick version. The drill is about 10 meters long, but only about 3 meters of ice come up for each run.  The end of the drill is the cutter head.  It is a circle with four blades.  As the drill spins, it cuts the ice, leaving the ice inside intact and separated from the rest of the ice sheet.  The ice chips created by the cutting are pumped along with the drilling fluid (the borehole is filled with fluid) up to the section
above where the core is kept. This keeps the drill from continually cutting the chips and not drilling farther into the ice.
After 3 meters has been drilled, the entire drill is brought back up to the surface.  It is rotated to horizontal, the core barrel is detached, and the ice is pushed out.

I am guessing you will see photos in a future front page post!

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