History of Greenland Ice Drilling

About this site (below)
Short essay on Greenland ice drilling
Glimpses of the history in documents and interview excerpts

Unraveling past climate conditions by drilling through kilometers of ice is surely one of our era's grand accomplishments. Future generations will want to study how it was done but they will fail unless the participants act now to secure a high-quality historical record. Around 1999 three leading scientific organizations, the American Meteorological Society (GATE project history), the American Geophysical Union (solar variability history), and the American Institute of Physics (Center for History of Physics), with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, formed a consortium to experiment with using the World Wide Web to locate, create, and preserve historical documentation in science and technology. The aim was to find ways to establish low-cost mechanisms for gathering much historical information that would otherwise be lost to posterity. A continuation of this effort is the History of Recent Science and Technology Project.

Some of the information gathered in the three projects was used for a Web site on The Discovery of Global Warming, where one may see the historical context for the Greenland ice drilling work.

The American Institute of Physics' effort was directed at the development of deep-core ice drilling, in particular the Greenland Ice Sheet Projects (GISP) and European counterparts, in which scores of scientists and engineers from dozens of institutions and several nations contributed to what has become a major source of insights into global climate change. We hoped that collecting documentation on theWeb would facilitate historical study. To inspire discussions of GISP history, the creators of this Web site (primarily Joel Genuth) provided a short essay on the historical questions and a sampling of glimpses of the history in documents and interviews.

In the event, not much information was gathered, and with the benefit of this experience, alternative models are being sought for Web-based historical preservation. We would still be happy to hear from anyone who could contribute information that would help historians to produce balanced narratives of the ice drilling effort.


Glimpses of the History

The links below lead to scraps that are typical of what historians use — letters, memoranda, excerpts from oral history interviews. Originally posted on the Web to provoke comments and reminiscences, they are kept here for their interest as peepholes into the otherwise invisible inner workings of a crucial development.

Development of Ice Drills
Evolution of European-American Relations in Ice Drilling
Planning of GISP2


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