Tasmanian researchers are this week using the latest in modern technology to cast new light on an Antarctic landmark discovered 113 years ago by explorer Robert Falcon Scott.

The massive Drygalski Ice Tongue, which projects 70-kilometres into the sea from its parent glacier, was first spotted by Captain Scott in January 1902 from his wooden sailing ship Discovery

Today, engineers from the Australian Maritime College and Antarctic Gateway Partnership are using technology being tested as part of the development of a new, high-tech Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to explore the 4000 year old feature.

The AMC's Karl Manzer and Isak Bowden Floyd (pictured, below) are part of a voyage being undertaken by the Korea Polar Research Institute's icebreaker Araon

The Araon left Hobart in late November as part of a month-long expedition to resupply the Korean research station Jang Bogo and conduct research in Terra Nova Bay.


Over the next week Karl and Isak will use multibeam sonar to map the submerged side wall of the Drygalski Ice Tongue.

They'll also produce high-definition images of the internal structure of the ice tongue using a sub bottom profiler angled at 45 degrees mapping the side wall of the ice.

As well as providing new insights into the structure and side wall surface roughness of the ice tongue, the research is also testing the capability and technology required for a new AUV being developed as part of the Antarctic Gateway Partnership.

The $7.5 million project, jointly funded by the AMC and the Australian Research Council, will build a world-leading, polar underwater vehicle specifically designed to address the challenges of Antarctic waters.

Due to be deployed in 2017, the new vehicle will be up to 8-metres long and weigh 3-tonnes.

It will be capable of transiting and surveying across tens to hundreds of kilometres while conducting complex operations with high fidelity communications, power and manipulation such as sediment sampling.

Its construction will create a unique opportunity to collect data from the sea floor, and beneath ice shelves and sea ice.

Bringing together the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the Australian Antarctic Division, the Antarctic Gateway Partnership is a Special Research Initiative of the Australian Research Council to build further polar research capability in Tasmania as a gateway for Antarctic research, education, innovation and logistics.

The Araon will return to Christchurch, New Zealand, in the New Year.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
1 May, 2018