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Australian scientists to build year-round runway in Antarctica

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-21 18:47
SYDNEY -- The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) is investigating to build a year-round runway in Antarctica.

Currently the AAD's access to Australian research sites on the remote continent by plane is restricted to a single ice-runway that is only operational during certain months of the year.

However, if a year-round runway is built at one of the sites currently being investigated, the AAD's capacity to explore Antarctica will increase significantly.

"The reason that we are looking for year-round aviation is not only the support to our expeditioners, but it allows us to branch out into different science experiments that we haven't been able to do in the past," project manager Bryce Harris told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Tuesday.

Two of the sites being explored are in the Vestfold Hills near Davis Station, another is in the Heidemann Valley while the fourth is on a ridge.

"In one site we've got a valley filled with glacial sediments and we're characterising those different sediments and the different environments, up (on the ridge) we are looking at a rocky site and we're looking at a veneer of the glacial sediment sitting over the top of the rock," Alistair Reed, a geologist on the project, said.

"We've had a station here for more than 60 years and really this part of the Vestfold Hills hasn't been mapped in very much detail at all," Dr Reed said.

"So we are creating that base layer of information so that it is exactly right."

Reed said the team of eight people had spent the Antarctic summer drilling for core samples of rock and soil at the sites.

"We are actually exploring what is beneath the surface," he said.

"So as a geologist we can map the surface and we can relate what we see at surface to what we know of the glacial processes that took place in the Vestfold Hills."

"With the drilling we are looking at what took place under the surface and ultimately, should the government decide to put a runway in the Vestfold Hills, that's what is going to be supporting the runway surface itself."

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