Programme Manager Chris Hill from the British Antarctic Survey says:
"This time last year a small 'advance party' transported nearly 70 tonnes of equipment 16,000 km from the UK to the drilling site. Now, one year later, we will ship another 26 tonnes of equipment on to the continent so that we can complete stage two of this challenging field mission. We set foot on the ice again in October and hope to bring samples to the surface in December 2012 an historic moment we have all been waiting for."
Professor John Parnell from the School of Geosciences at the University of Aberdeen says:
"For years we have speculated that new forms of microbial life could have evolved in the unique habitats of Antarctica's subglacial lakes. When we get the lake water samples back to the UK our analysis will focus on investigating the water for evidence of chemical compounds that microbes - tiny organisms - living in the lake might have produced.
"Finding evidence of such compounds would show us that if life can withstand even the deepest, darkest and most isolated conditions for more than a million years, then it has the ability to exist anywhere and by that I mean not just on Earth. We will use advanced pieces of kit that allow us to analyse extremely small volumes of water just a few millimetres and is highly sensitive to the existence of any chemical compounds which may be present."
By December 2012 the team will have prepared the field camp and will begin the 100 hours of non-stop, hot-water drilling required to create the borehole through to Lake Ellsworth. They will then have 24 hours to deploy the water and sediment-sampling equipment. During this process the team will use a bespoke 1.5 MW boiler to melt ice to provide 90,000 litres of water
|Contact: Heather Martin|
British Antarctic Survey