Several holes were drilled to depths of 1500–1630 m along a profile across Jakobshavns Isbræ, 50 km upstream from the calving front. Drilling was by hot water and required approximately 20 h. The holes were rapidly closed by refreezing, but it was possible to instrument them with thermistors and tilt sensors before this occurred.
Near the margins of the ice stream the holes reached the bed and connected with the subglacial drainage system. Water-level changes recorded in these holes are discussed in terms of the basal hydraulic system. The temperature measurements show that the glacier is temperate-based. Moreover, extrapolation of a measured temperature profile and its curvature suggests that a temperate layer of substantial thickness may exist at the bed near the center of the ice stream. There is a striking difference in the shapes of temperature profiles measured at different locations: beneath the center line the temperature minimum is at a considerably smaller relative depth than near the margins, but it is nearly the same in magnitude (−22.1°C). This may indicate a disproportionately large vertical stretching of the basal ice in the center of the ice stream. Since the basal ice is warmer and much less viscous than the ice above, a thickening of that layer would cause a corresponding increase of surface velocity. We presume that this mechanism contributes to the fast flow of Jakobshavns Isbræ.