EAST93: Geophysical traverse from the Transantarctic Mountains to the Wilkes Basin, East Antarctica

Open-File Report 95-225

ORCID iD and



The East Antarctic Seismic Traverse (EAST93) was a geophysical traverse designed to image the bedrock under the East Antarctic ice cap. The traverse started 10 km west of the Taylor Dome drill site and 25 km west of the exposed bedrock of the Transantarctic Mountains at Lashly Mt. and ended 323 km west of the drill site over the Wilkes subglacial basin (Fig. 1). The traverse was located subparallel to latitude 78° S starting 30-50 km north of the Victoria Land Traverse (1958-1959). It was carried out jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey and Stanford University, U.S.A., together with the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, and Victoria University, New Zealand, during December 1993 and January 1994. The geophysical traverse included 236 km of multichannel seismic reflection data at 150 m shot intervals, 312.5 km of gravity data collected at intervals of 2.1 km, 312.5 km of magnetic data (total field intensity) collected at average intervals of 0.5 km, and 205 km of ground penetrating radar at intervals of 77 m. Relative locations and elevations of the entire traverse were measured at intervals of 150 m by traditional surveying methods, and tied to three absolute locations measured by the Global Positioning System (GPS).

EAST93 is the first large-scale geophysical traverse on the polar plateau to our knowledge since the early 1960s. As such, the experiment presented several logistical challenges: (1) how to collect regional seismic profiles during the short Antarctic summer; (2) how to keep the scientific instruments running with minimal protection in harsh conditions; and (3) how to combine daily moves of camp with full days of work. The scientific and logistical aspects of the project proceeded, in general, according to plan despite the harsh conditions and our lack of previous experience on the polar plateau. Two unanticipated problems affected the progress of the work: the strong wind which slowed seismic acquisition, and the break-down of one of the large traverse vehicles. The major operational lessons of this project are. (1) Primacord laid close to the surface is not an adequate seismic source for imaging under the thick East Antarctic ice sheet, despite positive prior tests on the Ross Ice Shelf. (2) It is necessary to reduce the 6-7 hours spent daily on camp move and other chores by integrating the living quarters into the working teams, and by improving vehicle warming methods and generator housing.

The following report details the operational and logistical aspects of the work, the weather and ground conditions, the technical aspects of acquisition of geophysical data, and lessons and recommendations for future geophysical traverses.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
EAST93: Geophysical traverse from the Transantarctic Mountains to the Wilkes Basin, East Antarctica
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center
98 p. ill., maps ;28 cm.