Japanese expedition team plans to extract ‘world’s oldest ice’ in Antarctica

Courtesy of National Institute of Polar Research
The Antarctic ice core from a previous drilling at the Dome Fuji Station in Antarctica

A Japanese research team plans to make a new attempt at drilling through Antarctica’s ice sheet, in order to probe for changes in the global environment over the past 1 million years.

In Japan’s third excavation, the National Institute of Polar Research and other organizations are to bore down about 2,735 meters to extract the world’s oldest ice.

Researchers will excavate a spot about 5 kilometers south-southwest of the inland Dome Fuji Station. A team from the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition has been preparing for the project, which is expected to take until 2028.

The Antarctic ice sheet is made up of layers of snow that have accumulated over time, and each layer preserves the atmospheric components of its age.

Scientists can speculate on the characteristics of past climates by boring vertically through the surface as it exists today to extract the ice core, and analyzing the matter that each layer is composed of.

Japan has conducted two excavations directly beneath the base so far. During the second in 2003-2007, they harvested ice from 720,000 years ago, at a depth of approximately 3,035 meters.

As a European team has already extracted ice that is about 800,000 years old, Japan aims to go further back in time with this third drilling.