Camera Plunges Down 300ft Antarctic Hole to Find Earth’s Oldest Ice

A team of scientists sent a camera down a 300-foot (93 meters) borehole so it can reveal the oldest ice on Earth.

The above video shows a camera hurtling down the deep hole in Antarctica by Ph.D. student Austin Carter who is part of a team of researchers collecting samples they estimate to be two million years old.

The amazing clip was filmed in Allan Hills, East Antarctica on December 23 where scientists from the Center for Old Ice Exploration (COLDEX) are trying the find the continent’s oldest ice for research purposes.

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“We drilled an ice core at the Allan Hill,” Carter writes in his TikTok video above. “Where we have previously found the oldest ice ever discovered.”

The oldest ice ever found is 2.7 million years old, Carter and his colleagues are hoping to find even older ice in the borehole.

“To learn more about the fundamental properties of the climate system,” Carter adds.

Needle in a Haystack

COLDEX hopes the trip to Antarctica will unearth a long, unbroken segment of ice that’s been continuously freezing for the last 1.5 million years. As noted by ClimateWire, if the team gets really lucky, then they might find smaller, older samples that date back 5 million years.

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The team uses radar and GPS surveys to identify potential sites, but the search area is vast. The East Antarctic ice sheet is roughly the same size as the United States.

Scientists from COLDEX have likened their five-year-long mission to trying to find a needle in a haystack as initial explorations are focused on an area half the size of Germany.

“We’re looking for that perfect location where you’re going to have a full sequence of ice that’s on the order of two miles thick,” glaciologist Peter Neff tells the Antarctic Sun.

Scientists are searching for information on the Earth’s climate, such as how much carbon dioxide was present in the air. This can be measured by analyzing air bubbles trapped in glacial ice.

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Researchers know what the climate and carbon dioxide levels were like 800,000 years ago thanks to an ice core drilled in East Antarctica 20 years ago. COLDEX scientists are hoping that the current project will discover what was happening much longer ago than 800,000 years.

“The goal is to extend the ice core record of climate change back as far as we can,” climate researcher and COLDEX director Edward Brook tells the Antarctic Sun.

“It would even be remarkably important if we could push it back to three or four million years or even older.”