The Blue Ice Drill (BID) is an agile drill capable of retrieving cores of approximately 241 mm (9½-inch) in diameter. The BID system had a depth capability of 30 meters in solid ice in its original design and has been used successfully in both Greenland and Antarctica for many years. In PY 2014, the system was modified to allow for deeper coring to 200 m depth at the request of the scientific community. A new cable winch and tower were implemented in the design as well as several new down-hole components. Depth capability is still largely influenced by site/ice characteristics. The standard BID typically utilizes a ropes setup for coring to shallow depths, and the cable winch is used for achieving greater depths. In 2016, IDP initiated fabrication of a second BID-Deep system (BID-Deep 2), based on user demand, and as outlined in the U.S. Ice Drilling Program Long Range Science Plan. Fabrication was temporarily suspended in late 2017 due to budget constraints and decisions on the funding of field projects.
The BID is one of IDP’s most requested drills. A recently fabricated drill tent has allowed operations to continue in poor weather conditions. A new tower was fabricated in 2019 to bear the loads of the tent and allow for safer tent erection than the original BID tripod. IDP made additional modifications to the drill including painting the outer barrels white to reduce solar gain, redesigning the cable termination, fabrication of scoop cutters and work on the crown sheave.
Collecting good core quality at greater depths in attempts to extend the BID’s depth capability has proven challenging. The drill can easily drill through at least 80 m of firn, and deeper through another 70 m of solid ice. The drill has only reached 187 m in practice in Greenland. Site-specific ice properties such as temperature and structure as well as the large core diameter and/or mechanical aspects of the drill are all potential factors that may impact core quality. After prolonged use, many original components are aging and require replacement or redesign. IDP is discussing with the science community several approaches for drilling good quality ice core in blue ice, which may include design and fabrication of a modified BID or the development of a large-diameter thermal drill.
|Name||Blue Ice Drill|
|Number in Inventory||
Number in Inventory
|Max. Practical Depth||
Max. Practical Depth
25 m (200 m for BID-Deep version*)
288 mm (11.3 inches)
|Ice Core Diameter||
Ice Core Diameter
241 mm (9.5 inches)
|Ice Core Length||
Ice Core Length
|IDP Driller Required?||
IDP Driller Required?
Yes, 1 driller (2 people required for drill operation)
|Drill Fluid Required?||
Drill Fluid Required?
120 V, 3.5 kW generator (5 kW generator for BID-Deep)
|Estimated Drilling Time||
Estimated Drilling Time
10 m - 2 hours
50 m - 12 hours
|Time to Move (breakdown and setup)||
Time to Move (breakdown and setup)
|Light Aircraft Transportable?||
Light Aircraft Transportable?
|Shipping Volume (Cube)||
* The depth capability of the BID-Deep is largely influenced by site/ice characteristics. The current equipment is likely reaching its operational limits and assuring acceptable core quality at depths of 200 m would require a re-design of the system.
* IDP is discussing with the science community several approaches for drilling good quality ice core in blue ice, which may include design and fabrication of a modified BID or the development of a large-diameter thermal drill.
|U.S. Ice Drilling Program (2021) Blue Ice Drill Operations and Maintenance Manual. 1-43.||2021|
|Mary R Albert, Kristina R Slawny, Grant Boeckmann, Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Keith Makinson, Julius Rix (2020) Recent Innovations in Drilling in Ice. Chapter 6 of Advances in Terrestrial Drilling: Ground, Ice and Underwater, Bar-Cohen and Zacny, eds., 157-220. https://www.routledge.com/Advances-in-Terrestrial-Drilling-Ground-Ice-and-Under…||2020|
|Tanner W Kuhl, Jay A Johnson, Alexander J Shturmakov, Joshua J Goetz, Chris J Gibson, Donald A Lebar (2014) A new large-diameter ice-core drill: the Blue Ice Drill. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 1-6. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A009. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A009||2014|
|Jeffrey P Severinghaus, IDDO (2009) Blue Ice Drill Development: Science Requirements Document. 1-3.||2009|
|2023 Arctic - Collaborative Research: Investigating the Rate of Potential Biological in Situ Gas Production of CO and CH4 in Arctic Ice|
|2023-2024 Antarctic - Center for OLDest Ice Exploration (COLDEX)|
|2022-2023 Antarctic - Early and Mid Pleistocene Climate Archives from the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area|
|2019-2020 Antarctic - Early and Mid Pleistocene Climate Archives from the Allan Hills Blue Ice Area|
|2018-2019 Antarctic - Reconstructing Carbon-14 of Atmospheric Carbon Monoxide from Law Dome, Antarctica, to Constrain Long-Term Hydroxyl Radical Variability|
|2015 Arctic - Greenland: Reconstruction of Carbon Monoxide in the Pre-Industrial Arctic Atmosphere|
|2015 Arctic - Greenland: Investigating Carbon-14 in Polar Firn and Ice|
|2015-2016 Antarctic - Using 14C in Ice to Understand the Past Methane Budget and Cosmogenic Production Rates|
|2015-2016 Antarctic - Climate Controls on Aerosol Fluxes to Taylor Dome and Taylor Glacier|
|2014 Arctic - Greenland: Investigating Carbon-14 in Polar Firn and Ice|
|2014-2015 Antarctic - Using 14C in Ice to Understand the Past Methane Budget and Cosmogenic Production Rates|
|2013 Arctic - Greenland: Investigating Carbon-14 in Polar Firn and Ice|
|2013-2014 Antarctic - Climate Controls on Aerosol Fluxes to Taylor Dome and Taylor Glacier|
|2013-2014 Antarctic - Using 14C in Ice to Understand the Past Methane Budget and Cosmogenic Production Rates|
|2011-2012 Antarctic - Taylor Glacier Ice Coring|
|2010-2011 Antarctic - A "Horizontal Ice Core" for Large-Volume Samples of the Past Atmosphere|
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