IDP maintains and operates existing drills and borehole logging winches, and develops new systems with two principal foci:

  1. to provide high quality ice cores, and
  2. to produce boreholes that provide access to the interior and beds of ice sheets and glaciers for such purposes as embedding instruments, collecting gas samples, setting seismic charges, studying subglacial processes, studying subglacial geology, collecting subglacial bedrock core, and borehole logging.

Thermal Drill

The Electrothermal Drill (aka Thermal Drill) melts an annulus around the ice cores it collects. It supplements the 4-Inch drills and can be substituted for the 4-Inch Drill sonde, using the same winching system, for use in ice warmer than about minus 10° C. The drill collects a 3-inch (76 mm) core and has been used to drill to approximately 200-meters. For depths shallower than 30-meters, a simpler tripod assembly for operation of the drill is available and has been used with good success. It is particularly useful in ice close to the pressure melting point, where electromechanical drills are at risk from melting and refreezing of the surrounding ice. The Thermal Drill has performed well in British Columbia, Alaska and in southeastern Greenland. The drill was most recently deployed and used successfully to drill through firn aquifer layers in SE Greenland during spring 2013 and spring 2015.

IDP has one Thermal Drill ready for issue. A new 65-meter water-shedding cable was procured in 2015 to prevent the fibrous cable typically used with the Thermal and 4-Inch Drills from soaking with water in aquifer layers, refreezing and causing issues with travel over the upper sheave on the drill tower. IDP began exploring upgrades to the Thermal Drill in PY 2018 to allow for coring to 300 meters. Primary upgrades will include new heat rings with current/temperature limiting features, a new 300 meter water-shedding cable, a magnetic tool to aid in core removal, and an ethanol delivery mechanism.

A 2-meter-long section of ice from Combatant Col, Mt. Waddington, British Columbia, is removed from the Thermal Drill. Credit: Doug Clark

A close-up view of the Thermals Drill's drill head taken during the 2010 Combatant Col, Mt. Waddington, British Columbia, fieldwork. Credit: Eric Steig

Drilling with the thermal drill at Combatant Col, Mt. Waddington, British Columbia, during the 2010 field season. Credit: Eric Steig

The drill head of the thermal drill. Credit: Tony Wendricks

Equipment Details

Name Thermal Drill
Type Ice coring
Number in Inventory 1
Max. Practical Depth 200 meters
Hole Diameter 104 mm (4.1 inches)
Core Diameter 86 mm (3.4 inches)
Core Length 1 m
IDP Driller Required? Yes, 1 driller
Drill Fluid Required? No
Power requirements/source 220 v, 5 kW generator
Helicopter Transportable? Yes
Light Aircraft Transportable? Yes
Trench Required? No
Shipping Weight 1200 lbs
Shipping Cube 66
Comments Shipping weight includes generator and 100 meter winch sled; complete operating weight is 800 lbs; uses 4-Inch Drill system winches