Bernd Dachwald, Jill Mikucki, Slawek Tulaczyk, Ilya Digel, Clemens Espe, Marco Feldmann, Gero Francke, Julia Kowalski, Changsheng Xu
IceMole A Maneuverable Probe for Clean In-Situ Analysis and Sampling of Subsurface Ice and Subglacial Aquatic Ecosystems
Annals of Glaciology, Vol. 55(65), 2014, pp. 14-22


There is significant interest in sampling subglacial environments for geobiological studies, but they are difficult to access. Existing ice drilling technologies make it cumbersome to maintain microbiologically clean access for sample acquisition and environmental stewardship of potentially fragile subglacial aquatic ecosystems. The "IceMole" is a maneuverable subsurface ice probe for clean in-situ analysis and sampling of glacial ice and subglacial materials. The design is based on the novel concept of combining melting and mechanical propulsion. It can change melting direction by differential heating of the melting head and optional side wall heaters. The first two prototypes were successfully tested between 2010 and 2012 on glaciers in Switzerland and Iceland. They demonstrated downward, horizontal and upward melting, as well as curve driving and dirt layer penetration. A more advanced probe is currently under development as part of the "Enceladus Explorer" (EnEx) project. It offers systems for obstacle avoidance, target detection, and navigation in deep ice. For the EnEx-IceMole, we will pay particular attention to clean protocols for the sampling of subglacial materials for biogeochemical analysis. We plan to use this probe for clean access into a unique subglacial aquatic environment at Blood Falls, Antarctica, with subsequent return of a subglacial brine sample.