The Deep Ice Sheet Coring (DISC) Drill is a tilting-tower electromechanical drill designed to take 122 mm (4.8-inch) diameter ice cores to a depth of 4,000 m. The drill recovers cores up to 3.5 m long per run. To maintain field operations, the system includes a surface-based mechanical and electrical maintenance and repair shop built in a Mobile Expandable Container Configuration (MECC) ISO container. The drill was utilized for six production seasons at WAIS Divide, Antarctica, from 2007-2013 and completed the deepest U.S. ice core ever drilled at 3405 m depth. Replicate coring operations were also successfully completed onsite (see Replicate Coring System). In PY 2015, IDP worked with community scientists to complete revised science requirements for the DISC Drill. This iterative process included discussion of the feasibility of reducing the drill’s logistical footprint.
Decommissioning in progress.
Disassembly and packing of the equipment were completed at WAIS Divide in 2015-2016. In spring 2020, all remaining DISC Drill components were finally returned to Madison. Per discussions between IDP, the NSF and community scientists, the next deep U.S. drilling project is planned for Hercules Dome. In 2017, IDP worked with science community representatives to complete a DISC Drill vs. Foro 3000 analysis, to help determine which system should be used for drilling at Hercules Dome, Antarctica. The community consensus was that IDP should pursue development of the Foro 3000 Drill.
The obsolescence and the resulting inability to source replacement components, particularly electronics, was an ongoing challenge throughout operation of the drill at WAIS Divide. As much of the functionality of this drill is being replaced by the new Foro 3000 Drill, IDP initiated a discussion with the science community in spring 2021 regarding decommissioning of the DISC Drill. A survey was also distributed to the science community in August 2021 to gauge interest in future use of the drill. Following these efforts, IDP plans to seek approval from the NSF to decommission the DISC Drill and remove it from inventory. The MECC machine shop would not be decommissioned as it is planned for use with the Foro 3000 Drill. Replicate coring remains an important aspect of deep drilling, and the community would like to ensure the Foro 3000 Drill will have such capability.
|Name||Deep Ice Sheet Coring Drill|
|Number in Inventory||
Number in Inventory
|Max. Practical Depth||
Max. Practical Depth
163 mm (thin kerf cutter head)
170 mm (original cutter head)
|Ice Core Diameter||
Ice Core Diameter
122 mm (4.8 inches)
|Ice Core Length||
Ice Core Length
|Rock Core Diameter||
Rock Core Diameter
|Rock Core Length||
Rock Core Length
|IDP Driller Required?||
IDP Driller Required?
Yes, 3+ (number of drillers required depends on desired drilling depth and drilling schedule)
|Drill Fluid Required?||
Drill Fluid Required?
135 kW, 460 V 3-phase
|Light Aircraft Transportable?||
Light Aircraft Transportable?
~136,000 lbs (~61,700 kg)
|Shipping Volume (Cube)||
|Pavel Talalay, Hong J (2021) Perspectives for development of ice drilling technology: continuation of the discussion. Annals of Glaciology, 62, (84), 143-156. doi: 10.1017/aog.2020.81. https://doi.org/10.1017/aog.2020.81||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|
|Jay A Johnson, Matthew J Kippenhan (2017) DISC Drill vs. Foro 3000 Drill Analysis. 1-24.||2017|
|Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Alexander J Shturmakov, Nicolai B Mortensen, Joshua J Goetz (2014) Replicate ice-coring system architecture: mechanical design. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 165-172. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A019. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A019||2014|
|Jay A Johnson, Nicolai B Mortensen, Chris J Gibson, Joshua J Goetz, Alexander J Shturmakov (2014) Replicate ice-coring system testing. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 331-338. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A034. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A034||2014|
|Nicolai B Mortensen, Jay A Johnson, Alexander J Shturmakov (2014) Precision cable winch level wind for deep ice-coring systems. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 99-104. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A013. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A013||2014|
|Nicolai B Mortensen, Joshua J Goetz, Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Alexander J Shturmakov (2014) Replicate ice-coring system architecture: electrical, electronic and software design. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 156-164. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A014. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A014||2014|
|Alexander J Shturmakov, Donald A Lebar, Charles R Bentley (2014) DISC drill and replicate coring system: a new era in deep ice drilling engineering. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 189-198. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A017. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A017||2014|
|Kristina R Slawny, Jay A Johnson, Nicolai B Mortensen, Chris J Gibson, Joshua J Goetz, Alexander J Shturmakov, Donald A Lebar, Anthony W Wendricks (2014) Production drilling at WAIS Divide. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 147-155. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A018. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A018||2014|
|Joseph M Souney, Mark S Twickler, Geoffrey M Hargreaves, Brian M Bencivengo, Matthew J Kippenhan, Jay A Johnson, Eric D Cravens, Peter D Neff, Richard M Nunn, Anais J Orsi, Trevor J Popp, John F Rhoades, Bruce H Vaughn, Donald E Voigt, Gifford J Wong, Kendrick C Taylor (2014) Core handling and processing for the WAIS Divide ice-core project. Annals of Glaciology, 55, (68), 15-26. doi: 10.3189/2014AoG68A008. https://doi.org/10.3189/2014AoG68A008||2014|
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