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Alkota Pressure Washers Used in Antarctica Ice Drilling Project

Heater Pump Unit 2, which includes two of the six Alkota pressure-washer systems in a 40-foot-long container with water and fuel manifolds arranged along the back wall.

Scientists and engineers have reached a subglacial Antarctic lake for the first time using a hot-water drill system that was designed and built by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and engineers from the Northeast Professional Engineering Consultants Group. The UNL team manufactured this drill using systems and parts from a number of U.S. manufacturers, including 6 high-powered Alkota pressure-washing systems.
The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project drilled through the Antarctic ice sheet to reach subglacial Lake Whillans. Using the ice drill powered by Alkota’s power-washing systems, the team was able to bore a 30 centimeter diameter hole through a one-half mile of ice. The goal of the WISSARD project is to collect samples from Lake Whillans, which has been encased by ice and protected from the atmosphere for thousands of years. Using special instruments, the team of researchers is collecting samples of water, sediment, and any biology that may be in the lake while also preventing any contamination.

UPDATE: Learn more about the project here! SALSA Website

The Hot Water Drill

WISSARD drill camp above Lake Whillans, Antarctica

The hot-water drill system used in the WISSARD project needed to drive enough heat into the ice to melt the hole and continue downward at a significant rate while also making sure the lake was not at risk of being contaminated. The team had to have a system that produces a large amount of high-temperature water in a very concentrated area, so they reached out to Alkota to help build a custom pressure-washing system that could achieve their goals.
Each of the six Alkota pressure-washer systems in the custom drill provides 12 gallons of hot water per minute at a temperature of 90 degrees Centigrade, or 194 degrees Fahrenheit. In total, the drill pumps out up to 72 gallons of 90-degree water per minute at a pressure of up to 2,500 pounds per square inch (psi). At this temperature and pressure, the team only needed about 24 hours to drill through a half-mile of ice to reach the subglacial lake.
The drill had to be built on site, which meant all the pieces of the system were shipped by boat and aircraft over many months. The biggest challenge was getting these pieces to the drilling site, which would be the largest traverse in U.S. Antarctic history. It took 13 tractors to pull 26 ski-mounted modules with the drill, science labs, and camp infrastructure. All of these sections added up to 500,000 pounds and needed to travel 625 miles across the Ross Ice Sheet.

Custom Pressure-Washing Solutions

Since our beginning in 1964, Alkota has been custom building our own products right here in the United States. Over the years, our builders have been perfecting pressure washing technology with the right combination of high pressures, high volumes, and high temperatures. Since we hand-build each product, we meet any challenge with open arms. Whether you are looking to drill to a subglacial lake, clean and sanitize your barn, or cut through oil-caked equipment, our masters of the trade will build the perfect system for you.
Contact your local distributor to talk through your pressure-washing needs. If our current lineup of cleaning systems won’t take care of your mess, your distributor will help you custom build a cleaning system for your operation.
For more information on the WISSARD project, visit