After four days drilling in hazardous conditions the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program’s Arctic Coring Expedition retrieved a 272m core before sea ice forced the work to be abandoned.

The deepest ever Arctic borehole, just 233 kilometres from the North Pole, was interrupted late on Monday when very thick, moving ice floes meant that even the world’s most powerful icebreaker, the Russian Sovetskiy Soyuz could no longer ensure it was safe to continue coring.

The Sovetskiy Soyuz is one of two ice breakers brought in to protect the coring ship, the Vidar Viking, which must remain stationary while the cores are being taken.

While the team search for another favourable site scientists are taking the opportunity to look at the retrieved core.

Initial analyses, based on examining microfossils in the core, suggest that the some of the material in these sediments could be 40 million years old – the Middle Eocene period.

Chief co-scientist, Professor Jan Backman, from the University of Stockholm said: “This is very exciting. For the first time we are beginning to get information about the history of ice in the central Arctic Ocean.

“This core goes back to a time when there was no ice on the planet – it was too warm. It will tell us a great deal about the climate of the region. It will tell us when it changed from hot to cold and hopefully why.”

Jan explained that back in prehistoric times life in the Arctic Ocean was much different to today. In the warmer conditions, and free from ice, life thrived in the far north. The sediments will give some indication of the type and abundance of marine creatures living in these waters at that time.

The team of international scientists are two weeks into the six-week expedition to extract the deepest Arctic sedimentary cores ever drilled. They intend coring to a depth of about 500 metres under the seabed. The previous deepest core extracted from the Arctic was only 16 metres.

On Monday afternoon, a Hercules C-130, from the Swedish Armed Forces, parachuted package of spare parts and supplies onto the site. Both still pictures and broadcast quality video were collected during this airdrop, which are available to the media. Onshore personnel are available for immediate interview, the scientists and drilling personnel may be available for interview by satellite phone by prior arrangement.

Notes to editors
1. If you would like to arrange interviews with any of the team please contact Eva Grönlund, Information Officer at the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, e-mail: or telephone: +46 703449251 (mobile), +46 86739730 (office)

2. European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) represents and funds international ocean drilling at a European level. More information at:

3. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) is an international scientific endeavour that supports basic research into the history of the ocean basins, the nature of climate change, the composition and structure of ocean crust and sediments and life that exists beneath the seafloor. IODP conducts technologically advanced ocean drilling expeditions which investigate regions beneath the seafloor that are inaccessible by any other technology. More information at:

4. More information concerning ACEX can be found at the expedition web site A logbook with reports and pictures can also be found on this page