Location: Bozeman, Montana, United States
The Oldest Ice On Earth
In 2015 in the Allan Hills of Antarctica, scientists drilled deep into the ice and recovered cores that are ~2.7 million years old. Using a specialized Argon Isotope degassing technique, they determined it was some of the oldest ice on earth.
When snow falls, it becomes compressed over time as it forms glaciers. This process traps atmospheric gasses within the glaciers themselves, which means approximately 10% of glacier ice is actually air. The atmospheric gasses in that trapped air are released when ice cores are melted, which makes glaciers a nearly perfect archive of past climate. Careful melting of cores in special “cold labs” allows scientists to record the elemental composition of the ice-trapped air and reconstruct past atmospheric conditions. Given the current existential crisis of climate change, understanding the carbon dioxide content of these Antarctic cores might be the most important contribution of this research program. The ability to extract the atmosphere of deep time and study the fluctuations of greenhouse gasses over millions of years will hopefully allow scientists to create more accurate predictions of earth’s future.
I accompanied a National Science Foundation team of glacier scientists to Allan Hills field site in November 2019. The goal of the team was to drill ice cores in hopes of replicating their findings from 2015, and possibly recover more ancient ice. That research is currently in progress as the ice is deciphered in labs across the country.
This series of photographs will be part of a large scale artist book that is a collaboration with printmaker Todd Anderson. My photographs include hand annotated prints made in collaboration with the lead scientist Dr. John Higgins of Princeton University, as well as overlay images utilizing the schematics used for construction of the widest diameter blue ice drill in existence.