Navigation Links
Engineering team heads to Antarctica to explore hidden lake

Next week a British engineering team heads off to Antarctica for the first stage of an ambitious scientific mission to collect water and sediment samples from a lake buried beneath three kilometres of solid ice. This extraordinary research project, at the frontier of exploration, will yield new knowledge about the evolution of life on Earth and other planets, and will provide vital clues about the Earth's past climate.

Transporting nearly 70 tonnes of equipment the 'advance party' will make a journey almost 16,000km from the UK to subglacial Lake Ellsworth on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). It is one of the most remote and hostile environments on Earth with -25C temperatures. Their task is to prepare the way for the 'deep-field' research mission that will take place one year later. In October 2012 a team of 10 scientists and engineers will use state of the art hot-water drilling technology to make a three kilometre bore hole through the ice. They will then lower a titanium probe to measure and sample the water followed by a corer to extract sediment from the lake. Lake Ellsworth is likely to be the first of Antarctica's 387 known subglacial lakes to be measured and sampled directly through the design and manufacture of space-industry standard 'clean technology'.

For years scientists have speculated that new and unique forms of microbial life could have evolved in this cold, pitch black and isolated environment. Sediments on the lake bed are likely to reveal vital clues about the history of life in the lake and the ancient history of the WAIS, including past collapse.

The Lake Ellsworth Programme Principal Investigator, Professor Martin Siegert from the University of Edinburgh, says:

"For almost 15 years we've been planning to explore this hidden world. It's only now that we have the expertise and technology to drill through Antarctica's thickest ice and collect samples without contaminating this untouched and pristine environment.

"We are tremendously excited this is a frontier science project with engineering and technology at the forefront. Scientists and engineers from two of the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC) centres of excellence, working in partnership with scientists from eight UK universities, make up the consortium that will search for life in this extreme environment and discover the secrets locked in the sediments. Every piece of equipment is a bespoke design and they have been built in partnership with several UK businesses."

Dr David Pearce, Science Coordinator at British Antarctic Survey, is part of the team leading the 'search for life' in the lake water. He says:

"Finding life in a lake that could have been isolated from the rest of the biosphere for up to half a million years will tell us so much about the potential origin of and constraints for life on Earth, and may provide clues to the evolution of life on other extraterrestrial environments. If we find nothing this will be even more significant because it will define limits at which life can no longer exist on the planet."

The unique five metre long water sampling probe was designed and built by engineers at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. Made of the highest grade of titanium to ensure maximum sterility and strength, it will collect 24 water samples at different lake depths. It will also capture the top layer of sediments at the lake-floor / water interface.

Scientists at British Antarctic Survey and Durham University, working in partnership with Austrian business UWITEC, have designed and built a sediment corer, which can extract a core up to three metres long. The unique percussion-driven piston corer is strong enough to penetrate even the most compacted glacial sediments to extract a core sample.

Next year the team of scientists and engineers will live in tents, spending around three months working at one of the coldest and windiest places on Earth.


Contact: Heather Martin
British Antarctic Survey

Related biology news :

1. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reports on growing role of molecular diagnostics
2. US Senate confirms Clemson University engineering Dean Esin Gulari to National Science Board
3. University success at national engineering awards
4. NJIT professor finds engineering technique to identify disease-causing genes
5. MIT: Mending broken hearts with tissue engineering
6. Stanley to Continue Biometrics In-Service Engineering Support for U.S. Army
7. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News reports on the trend toward predictive toxicogenomics
8. Engineering algae to make fuel instead of sugar
9. NTU undergrad is first Singapore champion of an internationally acclaimed engineering competition
10. Developer of advanced computing memory, father of biochemical engineering, and innovative engineering educators win highest engineering honors of 2009
11. Stevens receives $25,000 grant from the Engineering Information Foundation
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/26/2015)... October 26, 2015 ... adds Biometrics Market Shares, ... as well as Emerging Biometrics Technologies: ... to its collection of IT and ... . --> ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... Calif. , Oct. 26, 2015  Delta ID ... biometric authentication to mobile and PC devices, announced its ... smartphone, the arrows NX F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, ... NX F-02H is the second smartphone to include iris ... technology in ARROWS NX F-04G in May 2015, world,s ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... BERLIN and GOLETA, California ... the HFES conference, BIOPAC and SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) announce ... and eye tracking data captured during interactive real-world tasks ... plug and play integration of their established wearable solutions ... researchers to synchronize gaze behavior captured with SMI ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 Halozyme Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: HALO ... New York on Wednesday, December 2 at ... , president and CEO, will provide a corporate overview. ... at 1:00 p.m. ET/10:00 a.m. PT . ... will provide a corporate overview. --> th Annual ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ: ... on behalf of the Toronto Stock Exchange, confirms that ... are no corporate developments that would cause the recent ... --> --> About Aeterna Zentaris Inc. ... --> Aeterna Zentaris is a specialty biopharmaceutical ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model ... Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View ... years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several new model ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 24, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... (the "Company") announced today that the remaining 11,000 ... Common Share Purchase Warrants (the "Series B Warrants") ... agreement were exercised on November 23, 2015, which ... Common Shares.  After giving effect to the issuance ...
Breaking Biology Technology: