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A design for ice core augers was patented in 1932 and they have changed little since.
An auger is essentially a cylinder with helical metal ribs (known as flights) wrapped around the outside, at the lower end of which are cutting blades.
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.
The bubbles disappear and the ice becomes more transparent.
The weight above makes deeper layers of ice thin and flow outwards.
These include soot, ash, and other types of particle from forest fires and volcanoes; isotopes such as beryllium-10 created by cosmic rays; micrometeorites; and pollen.
The lowest layer of a glacier, called basal ice, is frequently formed of subglacial meltwater that has refrozen.
As a result, alternating bands of lighter and darker ice can be seen in an ice core.
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).
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.Ice cores are collected by cutting around a cylinder of ice in a way that enables it to be brought to the surface.