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Engineering team heads to Antarctica to explore hidden lake
Date:10/10/2011

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 p
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Contact: Heather Martin
heather@ellsworth.org.uk
44-774-082-2229
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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