A 40 km line across George VI Ice Shelf was sounded in January 1981 by both radio echo and seismic reflection methods. Because the velocities of radio and seismic waves vary with ice density in different ways, an accurate comparison of travel times from the two methods allowed the average density of the ice shelf to be calculated.
A distinguishable echo from the base of the ice shelf was recorded at 22 out of 23 seismic stations. Continuous radio echo profiling was achieved in ice varying in thickness from about 200 to 350 m. The calculated mean densities fell into two groups, In an area where summer meltwater frequently floods the surface the average densities were around 0.915 Mg m−3, while in the drier areas the average densities were around 0.884 Mg m−3. Apart from this division, there was no apparent systematic variation of average density with position. The sounding was carried out approximately along a flowline on the ice shelf.
The variation of ice density with depth and position is difficult to allow for when modelling the deformation of ice shelves. Measured values of surface strain-rate, for example, may in some circumstances need to be corrected for effects due to the compressibility of snow.