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Over four decades glaciologist and climate scientist Vin Morgan built his career from the icy depths of Antarctica.

He started working with the Australian Antarctic Division in 1967. At the time Antarctic scientists still enjoyed sledding with Siberian huskies, though tractors had replaced the dogs for hauling equipment and people on research expeditions.

Black and white photograph of a man holding a husky pup.

Vin with a Husky pup during his first visit to Antarctica in 1968

Climate record in ice

Between 1989 and 1993 Vin led an ambitious ice core drilling project that extracted a 1.2-kilometre-deep core at the summit of Law Dome, inland of Casey Station in East Antarctica. Analysis of the ice core extracted a climate record going back 90,000 years.

As snow slowly compresses into glacial ice, air is trapped, creating a rare and valuable record of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Law Dome has a very heavy and regular snowfall, which allows annual layers to be accurately counted in the ice cores.

Data extracted from the ice cores shows a rapid increase in greenhouse gases from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.


Extracting an ice core from inside the drill

Trapped air bubbles in a section of an Antarctic ice core

Ice core drill

In 2017 the Australian Antarctic Division donated the ice core drill used in Vin Morgan’s project to the Museum.

Vin Morgan recently travelled to Canberra from his home in Melbourne to explain to our conservators and curators how the drill operated, and to share stories about his remarkable Antarctic and scientific career.

The drill will feature in the new environmental history gallery, which opens in 2022.

A man is filming two other men who are in discussion and kneeling over an ice core drill.

Vin Morgan explains the operation of the ice core drill to Nathan Pharaoh, large technology conservator

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