Drilling bore holes in deep, cold ice masses by hot-water methods and maintaining these holes with sufficient diameter to allow down-hole experimentation poses a major obstacle to the investigation of conditions beneath ice sheets and ice streams. Closure of the water-filled holes by refreezing is the dominant difficulty. In this paper, we describe calculations of heat transfer from the drilling system to the ice and the subsequent time-dependent motion of the phase boundary defining the bore-hole wall. Results are presented with the view of optimizing the bore-hole radius at depth for a fixed drill performance and a variable rate of drilling.
Calculation of melting/refreezing rates at the bore-hole wall requires the use of a one-dimensional, time-dependent numerical heat-flow model with a distorting mesh which follows the changing hole size. The delay of hole closure is discussed with a view to keeping holes open long enough to allow instruments to be lowered to the glacier bed, while realizing that drilling-system performance may be marginal because of logisitical and/or expenditure constraints. The relative merits of drilling a large hole, which is very time consuming with a small drill, and the use of water-soluble antifreezes, which have a history of creating plugs of ice slush, are discussed. A method of creating a stable hole filled with antifreeze in which ice slush does not occur is described.
The recent application of these theoretical ideas to the planning and implementation of successful hot-water drilling programs in Antarctica and Greenland is also presented.