We have developed and tested a portable impulse radar for ground-based sounding of glaciers. Noteworthy characteristics of the instrument are its portability, low power consumption, digital data storage, and the ability to be operated either manually or automatically under program control. Current system specifications include a band width of 46 MHz; a sampling interval of 10.76 ns; depth precision of 0.9 m; 1024 samples per record; amplitude resolution of 8 bits; minimum recordable signal at the receive antenna equal to 0.26 mV; an operating center frequency of 8.5 MHz and an antenna-damping coefficient of 300 ohms.
The transmitter uses paired SCRs and a 12 V to 800 V converter to impress a 1200 V step on to a resistively damped dipole antenna. This pulse is triggered from the receiving system via a fibre optics cable so that each record can include the complete surface-path wavelet. The receiver unit combines a wide-band amplifier (with variable front-end attenuation) with a microprocessor-controlled data-acquisition system of our own design. The result of each sounding can be replayed as an “A-scope” display on a small, low-cost oscilloscope and stored on or retrieved from digital cassettes. In the unattended mode, records are collected at programmable intervals. The system weighs about 7.5 kg and uses dry cells or rechargeable batteries for power.
Examples were presented in a poster session of sounding profiles taken in July 1986 on Trapridge Glacier, Yukon Territory in Canada, along lines coinciding with an extensive drilling program. Although not yet fully analysed, we feel that some of the results may represent the effects of crevasses, internal features such as morainal material, varying bed features, and changes in subglacial and englacial hydrology.