Hercules Dome

Hercules Dome is located at ~86°S, 105°W, between the Horlick and Thiel Mountains, about 400 km from the South Pole. It was first identified as a promising site for a deep ice core on the basis of radar and shallow ice-core data collected by US International Trans‐Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) traverse in 2002-2003 (Jacobel and others, 2005).

Topographic map of Hercules Dome showing the location in Antarctica. Map by Ben Hills, University of Washington.
Elevation profile and radar stratigraphy at West Dome collected by the site-selection team in 2019. Figure courtesy of Knut Christianson.

Hercules Dome actually comprises three distinct features, informally known as the “West”, “East” and “South” domes, which are anchored by subglacial ridges. Ongoing site-selection work led by Knut Christianson at the University of Washington will use ice-penetrating radar and GPS surveys and ice-flow modeling to select a final location for drilling. Results to date suggest that either West Dome or South Dome are the most promising sites.

Getting people and equipment to Hercules Dome for drilling is a major operation, which will likely involve at least one tractor-traverse all the way from McMurdo Station, about 1600 kilometers away. For much of the distance, we will be able to take advantage of the well-established route from McMurdo to South Pole.

Drilling is expected to begin at the earliest in 2024. In the meanwhile, we’ll be working with the National Science Foundation, the Antarctic Support Contractor, and the U.S. Ice Drilling Program (IDP) engineers at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, in planning logistics.

Because drilling will not begin for a few years, there is ample time to consider getting involved in the science and in other aspects of the project.

Informational Webinars

The Hercules Dome lead team hosted two informational webinars on March 23 and March 31 that included Q&A sessions. The goal of the webinars was to provide more background on the project and answer questions from interested participants. A video recording of the informational webinar is available.

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Special Webinar Lecture

On April 15 at 5:00 pm London Time (12:00 pm Eastern, 9:00 am Pacific), we held a special webinar lecture by Professor Eric Wolff of Cambridge University entitled “New frontiers in Antarctic ice core research”. A video recording of Professor Eric Wolff's webinar lecture is available.

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Community Workshop & Science Planning Meeting

The first community workshop and science planning meeting took place on May 10-11, 2021, using a virtual platform. This was both a planning meeting and an open science meeting, which provided an opportunity to hear about some of the latest Antarctic ice core research, and to begin to develop new collaborations.

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