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Robin, Gordon de Quetteville

ice polar antarctic sheets

(1921– ) British glaciologist: made investigations into the thickness and flow of polar ice sheets.

Educated in Melbourne, where he graduated in physics, Robin then had 4 years of naval service, first on convoy escort and then in the submarine service. On demobilization in Britain he joined Oliphant’s nuclear physics department in Birmingham University, where the vice-chancellor was Raymond Priestley of Shackleton’s and Scott’s Antarctic expeditions. Both helped to start Robin’s polar career. In 1958 he was appointed director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, which he built into one of the world’s leading glaciological research centres.

Robin advanced our understanding of polar ice sheets in a number of significant ways. In 1949–52 he led the first long seismic traverse to the Antarctic plateau, which crossed a mountainous terrain buried by ice up to 2.4 km thick. This was one of the last epic journeys across the continent. Later he and his group in Cambridge pioneered the use of airborne radio-echo-sounding to survey large areas of the Antarctic ice sheet. This revealed unexpected features such as subglacial lakes under ice depths exceeding 4 km in situations where his early theory of temperature distribution in polar ice sheets had predicted basal melting. Further theoretical contributions based on interpretation of field data included modifications to flow theory, and the dating and interpretation of palaeoclimatic evidence such as layering caused by volcanic dust within the ice that produced radio echoes. The layers extend over hundreds of kilometres within otherwise pristine Antarctic snows.

Robinson, Bill "Bojangles" (1878–1949) [next] [back] Robeson, Paul (1898–1976)

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