Volume 28 (2010) Pages 27-32
Glaciar Perito Moreno is one of the major freshwater calving glaciers in the Southern Patagonia Icefield. Its fast-flowing characteristic is probably due to high water pressure at the glacier bed, however, subglacial conditions have never been observed in Patagonia until our recent undertaking. To investigate the role of subglacial water pressure in the calving glacier dynamics, we performed hot-water drilling at Glaciar Perito Moreno from February to March 2010. This study represents the first attempt ever at hot-water glacier drilling in Patagonia. Two boreholes were drilled to the bed at 4.7km upglacier from the terminus, where the ice was revealed to be 515±5m thick and the bed located at about 330m below the proglacial lake level. The water levels in the boreholes were >100m above the lake level, which indicates that more than 90% of the ice overburden pressure was balanced out by the subglacial water pressure. Water in the boreholes had drained away before the drilling reached the bed, suggesting the existence of an englacial drainage system. These results provide crucial information for understanding the hydraulic and hydrological conditions of calving glaciers. In order to drill a 500m deep glacier, an existing hot-water drilling system was adapted by increasing the number of high-pressure hot-water machines. The drilling operation at Glaciar Perito Moreno confirmed the system's capacity to drill a 500-m-deep borehole at a rate of 50mh-1 with fuel consumption rates of 15.7lh-1 for diesel and 3.9lh-1 for petrol.