Antarctic road research to be used at USC

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Antarctic road research to be used at USC


Published on 19 March 2012

19 March 2012

A University of the Sunshine Coast academic has just returned home to Maleny after completing an exciting three-month scoping study into alternative road options in Antarctica.

Lecturer in Science and Engineering Dr Adrian McCallum was deployed by the Australian Government’s Antarctic research arm, the Antarctic Division, to assess the viability of an existing manufactured gravel road from Casey Station to the nearby wharf.

Dr McCallum left on the Aurora Australis in December amid commemorative celebrations marking 100 years since Douglas Mawson led an Australasian expedition to the frozen continent.

“The problem in Antarctica is that the roads are often built over ice and every year the gravel warms up and melts into the ice and the road gets washed away by meltwater,” he said. “So the seasonal provision of gravel for this use is not sustainable.

“We were able to dig down and find bedrock under the ice which means the ice is founded on solid rock and not over part of the ocean as was theorised.

“I have come up with a plan based on what is practised in Canada and the Arctic where you insulate the layer of ice by essentially placing foam between the ice and the gravel. By containing the gravel, material won't be lost and the road base should remain intact and strong.”

Dr McCallum said he planned to incorporate his Antarctic experience into his science and engineering teaching at USC.

“I’ll be able to teach students how to design and maintain roads which may be subject to melt or different climatic conditions,” he said. “With my science hat on, I’ll be looking at climate change adaptation and how we can modify infrastructure as the climate changes.”

Dr McCallum said cold region engineering was a niche field in which global employment opportunities existed.

“If USC can develop engineering graduates with an eye for cold weather issues then that could offer very useful collaborative relationships with polar organisations down the track,” he said.

— Michelle Widdicombe

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