Coulman High (CH) Project

The Antarctic geological DRILLing (ANDRILL) Program is developing a new round of drill sites as part of the Coulman High (CH) Project in the western Ross Sea. The CH Project will target an early Miocene and Paleogene section to address themes on: evolution and stability of the cryosphere; warm climate periods in the Early Tertiary; orbital variability controls on climate; and tectonics within the West Antarctic Rift System. The drill sites are located east of Ross Island, on the Coulman High (~77.46 S; 171.23 – 171.68 E) at the former C-19 giant iceberg calving site. The CH site is located between the Victoria Land Basin and the Central Trough (Fig. 1), 125 km overland in a straight line NE from McMurdo Station. The water depth there is 834-871 m. Proposed drill sites are located on a seismic profile completed at the front of the Ross Ice Shelf ice shelf in 2003, that has since been covered by the advancing ice shelf that is moving north at ~740 m/year. The stratigraphic record here would extend the Miocene and younger data obtained from ANDRILL sites MIS and SMS and recover underlying sediments representing the Early Tertiary greenhouse world. Technical challenges include drilling into the seabed while the ice is moving north at more than 2 m per day and maintaining an open hole through the nearly 250 m-thick ice shelf. Drilling is anticipated to begin in the 2012-2013 season.

Science and operations for this project will be managed similar to previous ANDRILL successes at the MIS and SMS drill sites. The CH drill site has been successfully reviewed by the IODP site survey panel and an operations feasibility study has been completed. The U.S. proposal has been submitted for this project and is under review, and proposals for New Zealand and Europe are under development. ANDRILL is currently seeking the involvement of international partners in developing a multinational collaboration for this exciting new effort. For more information on how to participate in the Coulman High Project please contact the ANDRILL Science Management Office at ch@andrill.org.

Nathanial B. Palmer conducting sonar surveys
Research Icebreaker Nathanial B. Palmer conducting sonar surveys at the front of the Ross Ice Shelf east of Ross Island, Ross Sea Antarctica.  Photo by Bruce Luyendyk