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Visiting Scientist to Lecture about Geologic Drilling in Antarctica

rack-frankcVisiting lecturer Frank Rack

A scientist who has taken a leading role in exploratory drilling in the Ross Sea ice shelf in Antarctica - and who has made exciting discoveries - will present his work Monday, April 8, at a seminar sponsored by Old Dominion University's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography.

Frank Rack, executive director of the ANDRILL Science Management Office at the University of Nebraska, will speak beginning at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1202 of the E. V. Williams Engineering and Computational Sciences Building. The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will be preceded at 3 p.m. by a reception with refreshments.

ANDRILL is a multinational program with the objective to drill back in time to recover a history of paleoenvironmental conditions. Knowing more about these conditions will help scientists understand the timing of past glacial and interglacial changes, and guide global warming predictions.

Rack participated in field surveys conducted at several sites on the Ross ice shelf in 2010 and 2011 as part of the ANDRILL (ANtarctic geologic DRILLing) Coulman High Project. An ANDRILL hot water drill system was used to melt access holes 10 to 60 centimeters in diameter through 275 meters of ice shelf, allowing researchers to deploy a variety of sediment coring tools, cameras, oceanographic instruments, and a remotely operated vehicle named SCINI. The vehicle explored the underside of the ice shelf, which is believed to be a scientific first, and the results were very interesting. Cameras on the vehicle discovered and explored a unique biological community dominated by anemones living inside burrows in the lower surface of the ice shelf and SCINI recovered many biological samples using an improvised suction sampler.

"The unexpected biological discovery highlights the importance of serendipity in science and points to the significant opportunities that interdisciplinary investigations can provide in these remote environments," Rack wrote in an abstract of his lecture.

Rack also will share some insights about the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) Project's successful entry into Antartica's subglacial Lake Whillans in January 2013 using a new hot water drill system developed for this project.