1. ITV Report

University links to major science experiment

A professor from Durham University says he's thrilled to be playing a key role in a major scientific experiment. Mike Bentley is poised to analyse samples which are being taken from an ancient frozen lake, buried deep beneath the ice in Antarctica.

A twelve man team of scientists and engineers has just started drilling toward lake Ellsworth, two miles beneath the surface. Early next week they'll reach the buried lake, and their specialist machinery will take samples of frozen water and sediment.

The findings will then be sent to various laboratories for analysis, including one at Durham university. The professor in charge of its team is ecstatic.

"I'm really excited. This is more than a decade in the planning. There's one guy who has been involved for sixteen years, and I've been in it for ten years. The culmination is coming now in the next few days. It's apt that Christmas is coming because I feel like a kid at Christmas!"

– Professor Mike Bentley

The findings will eventually help experts discover whether life can survive in the most extreme conditions.

This project is all about two big scientific questions. The first is, in this extreme environment of these lakes underneath ice sheets, is there life? Can life survive down there under incredible pressure where it's dark, there are very few nutrients and it's cold? The second question is what the sediment that's accumulated over thousands of years can tell us about the history of the ice sheet.

– Professor Mike Bentley

The project has been sixteen years in the making and it'll take time to properly examine the results. The water and sediment samples will be studied in the spring of 2013.