Samples taken from the Dome C ice core, Antarctica, and the GRIP ice core, Greenland, are examined using the scanning electron microscope to determine their microstructure. In both cores, samples are taken from two differing climatic periods: the Holocene and the last glacial period. Many of the usual features observed in similar samples under the light microscope are observed, including: bubbles, grain boundaries and clathrate hydrates. Features not resolvable using the light microscope are also found. Dust particles are found in situ. Eighty-five per cent of those observed contained silicon, which was generally associated with aluminium and magnesium. An estimation is made of the relative proportions of dust particles located at grain boundaries and in the bulk of the ice grain. At Dome C a higher proportion than expected from a random distribution of particles was found located at grain boundaries, although in Greenland this was not found to be the case for most samples. Direct evidence is also presented indicating the role of dust particles and microscopical inclusions in impeding or ``pinning’’ grain-boundary migration. Soluble impurities are also detected at some triple junctions and grain boundaries.