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Subsurface Assessment at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

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Technical Report

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Installations built on massive ice, permafrost, or seasonal frozen ground require careful design to avoid melting issues. Therefore, efforts to rebuild McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to improve operational efficiency and to consolidate energy resources require knowledge of geology and geotechnical information, particularly soil indices within the near-surface layer subjected to temporal fluctuations and the ice-cemented layer. Therefore, this study collected both 200 and 400 MHz ground-penetrating radar GPR data in McMurdo during January, October, and November of 2015 to detect the active layer, permafrost or massive ice, fill thickness, solid bedrock depth, and buried utilities or construction and waste debris. Five soil pits were excavated to collect soil, ice, and rock samples for gradation, density, and moisture content tests. Information extracted from the soil pits also aided in ground-truthing the GPR profiles. Subsurface investigations revealed distinct features, including ice-bonded fractured basaltic boulders, rocks, and gravelly sand massive ice and constructed friable fill layer. This paper describes the soil temperature and moisture during austral summers. The presented results are important for designs of new engineered structures at McMurdo Station.

Subject Categories:

  • Snow, Ice and Permafrost
  • Geology, Geochemistry and Mineralogy
  • Soil Mechanics

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