IDDO 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.

Sediment Laden Lake Ice Drill


In Development - The drill system is currently in fabrication at IDDO. Components are on order and assembly is expected to begin in June 2017. The system is expected to be completed by late October 2017.


Community scientists have long been requesting a very lightweight , PI-operable hot water drill for use on sediment-laden lake ice, particularly in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. In PY 2017, IDDO plans to complete the design, procurement, assembly and testing of the new system. IDDO anticipates the drill will be ready for issue by the 2017-2018 field season.

Science Requirements

The following are the final approved science requirements for the drill that have been defined through discussions with the research community and with IDDO staff.

Science Requirements

  1. Produce access holes through 6 m of clean ice, or ice containing some soil particles.
  2. The drill should be field portable, with the modules less than 50 lbs that can be carried by one person or dragged over very rough ice containing melt pools, by hand on one sled (not including the generator if needed). Upper weight of the system must be less than the weight of a 5 kW generator including its protective case.
  3. Diameter of holes needed will vary, with most likely in the 13-25 cm diameter.
  4. The drill should be operable in borehole and/or ambient temperatures down to -30 C.
  5. The drill should require very little water to start the drilling, and would preferably recirculate the ice melt and seed water to avoid loss or contamination to the environment.
  6. Setup time for the drill should be within a half hour after initial unpacking on site.
  7. Drilling speed should be less than 30 minutes for a 5" hole through a 6 m ice ice cover.
  8. The drill should be transportable inside one helicopter flight, packed in cases that can be lifted by a maximum of two people.
  9. The drill should have stand-alone capability for operation at small field camps at remote sites with no heavy equipment.
  10. Once the drill is set-up, one scientist should be able to do the drilling operations in the field.
  11. Permanent indicators on the hose indicating depth and the distance to the tip should be included.
  12. The drill should be able to be used to free up cables frozen in the ice, including riding them down through the ice (i.e. if coupled with something like bailing wire)
  13. Materials used should be non-corrosive from fresh to sea water salinities.
  14. The downhole apparatus and interior should be easily cleansed from biological organisms with standard solvents/sterilants.
  15. The drill should be easily maintainable in the field by scientists to avoid freeze damage.


  • This drill is not intended to replace use of the existing Hotsy heaters and hotfinger type drills. Instead, this drill will be used to (i) make pilot holes 13-25 cm in diameter for the Hotsy / hotfinger setup and (ii) to free cables/wires frozen in the ice.
  • An ideal system would require very little starting water/use very little water overall. It is difficult on both lake ice and sea ice to come up with any starting water as there is often no snow.
  • The drill should recirculate with zero to minimal water loss to the environment when used on sea ice.
  • The drill should be easy to troubleshoot and repair by a scientist on site using common home-garage tools.
  • Environmental impact of the proposed drill in the out-years is covered by Record of Environmental Review (ROER) titled USE of Hot Water Drill on Lake Bonney (MCDV0800 R08; 2007), and the constructed drill will need to be reviewed under the EIA requirements by NSF before fielding, as per email from Ted Doerr to Peter Doran on 12 October 2015.

Associated Documents

Questions or Comments

Questions or comments should be sent to Mary Albert.