Scientists to explore hidden world beneath Antarctic glacier

December 31st, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Dec 31 (ANI): A team of British scientists is all set to become the first to explore the hidden world beneath an Antarctic glacier.

According to a report in the Telegraph, with the help of a robot submarine, the polar scientists will get a glimpse of the unexplored region beneath one of Antarcticas most puzzling glaciers.

They hope to find out why Pine Island glacier is slipping into the sea at an ever-accelerating rate a development that could cause sea levels to rise by as much as ten centimeters in the next century as the ice melts.

Scientists believe that unusual melting at the glaciers base, where it enters the ocean, may be to blame.

Using the seven meter long, bright yellow unmanned submarine, nicknamed Autosub, the scientists from the British Antarctic Survey hope to explore this inaccessible part of the glacier to help understand for the first time what is happening.

With the aid of sophisticated sonar scanners, they intend to map out the underside of the ice while also measuring the changes in water temperature, pressure and salt content as they delve beneath millions of tonnes of ice.

The glacier is thinning and accelerating, which means more ice is melting into the oceans and contributing to sea level rise, said Dr Adrian Jenkins, who is leading the British Antarctic Survey research.

We believe that something about the ocean around where the glacier ice moves from being grounded to floating has changed and this is driving the thinning and accelerating ice flow, he added.

We really have very little idea of what is actually going on beneath the ice as we have not been able to see through the ice to find out. We are talking about ice that is over a kilometer thick in places. The only way is to send our instruments beneath the ice to get measurements, he explained.

The robotic submarine will automatically navigate its way for 40 miles while underneath the glacier ice until it reaches the point where the ice meets the land a journey that will take 20 hours.

Using on-board sonar, the Autosub will pick its way through the water beneath the ice while also creating a three dimensional map for the scientists to determine the areas beneath the glacier that are most prone to melting.

The submarine will follow a pre-programmed course, but also carries an intelligent navigation system that allows it to find its way around obstacles that may get in its way. (ANI)

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