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In Greenland, a sequence of collaborative projects began in the 1970s with the Greenland Ice Sheet Project; there have been multiple follow-up projects, with the most recent, the East Greenland Ice-Core Project, expected to complete a deep core in east Greenland in 2020.Because the rate of snowfall varies from site to site, the age of the firn when it turns to ice varies a great deal.
At Summit Camp in Greenland, the depth is 77 m and the ice is 230 years old; at Dome C in Antarctica the depth is 95 m and the age 2500 years.
As further layers build up, the pressure increases, and at about 1500 m the crystal structure of the ice changes from hexagonal to cubic, allowing air molecules to move into the cubic crystals and form a clathrate.
The bubbles disappear and the ice becomes more transparent.
The weight above makes deeper layers of ice thin and flow outwards.
Hand augers can be rotated by a T handle or a brace handle, and some can be attached to handheld electric drills to power the rotation.
With the aid of a tripod for lowering and raising the auger, cores up to 50 m deep can be retrieved, but the practical limit is about 30 m for engine-powered augers, and less for hand augers.
The cuttings (chips of ice cut away by the drill) must be drawn up the hole and disposed of or they will reduce the cutting efficiency of the drill.
The fluid must have a low kinematic viscosity to reduce tripping time (the time taken to pull the drilling equipment out of the hole and return it to the bottom of the hole).
Soviet ice drilling projects in Antarctica include decades of work at Vostok Station, with the deepest core reaching 3769 m.
Numerous other deep cores in the Antarctic have been completed over the years, including the West Antarctic Ice Sheet project, and cores managed by the British Antarctic Survey and the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition.
Buried under the snow of following years, the coarse-grained hoar frost compresses into lighter layers than the winter snow.