Scientists in Antarctica used an underwater robot called ice fins to study the Svets and Kambu glaciers. For the first time, the probe looked at the bottom of the glacier. The MELT team has been based in Antarctica for the past two months and is working to deploy marine instruments to collect data on the continent’s most important and dangerous glaciers.
The most interesting data from the study came from the IceFin Underwater Robot, which was able to navigate the waters beneath the Switz Glacier and collect data from the catch-up between the glacier and the ocean. The underwater robot is designed to enter the grounding area of a glacier that was previously almost impossible to observe.
The probe allows scientists to dive under miles of ice to measure and map places that other methods cannot reach. The team’s scientists worked in dangerous environments of wind and low temperatures of minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit to get close to the shoreline, allowing the ice fins to reach the stranded area. A hot drill runs through 2,300 feet of ice to reach the bottom of the ocean below.
Ice fins swim more than a mile from the drilling site to the Thwaites catch-up zone, measuring, imaging and mapping melting, collecting data to understand the terrain and conditions. The second ice fin was launched into the stranded area of the Cambus ice stream, part of the Ross ice shelf. The Thwaites glacier is an important area of research for scientists because it is particularly vulnerable to climate and ocean changes. It melts 4% of global sea level rise. The team says the amount of ice flowing out of glaciers has almost doubled in the past 30 years, making it one of the fastest-changing areas in Antarctica.