The world’s largest marine geoscience project is underway to drill deep beneath the Antarctic to discover clues to climate change.

That would involve boring through two km of rock in the sea bed, seven km deep in the ocean.

Rob McKay, post-doctoral fellow at Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre, is aboard the Joides Resolution research ship bound for Wilkes Land, Antarctica.

McKay says the two-month expedition would help to understand the past climate history of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.

“The project will essentially provide a snapshot of cooling and warming in the Antarctic from 34 million years ago to the present day and try to understand how these changes affected the global climate system, in particular the Southern Ocean.

“The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the world’s largest and we hope to collect rocks that are over 34 million years old. These will help document the onset of glaciations in Antarctica and the end of the greenhouse world when there were forests in Antarctica.”

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme (IODP) team set sail in early January from Wellington in New Zealand where the drilling ship docked after spending two months collecting core samples from sediments in the Canterbury Basin, a university release said.

“It’s exciting to be part of a large collaborative project. The boat has an incredible set-up and the crew are highly experienced so the chances of a successful expedition are as high as possible,” said McKay.