Antarctic lake project abandoned for this year

Scientists lowering a heated well-head in preparation for drilling through to Antarctic ice down to a hidden lake. Credit: British Antarctic Survey

A project led by the British Antarctic Survey based in Cambridge to drill down to a lake under the ice has been abandoned for this season because of technical problems.

Scientists had been using a hot-water drill to melt the ice and bore down to Lake Ellsworth containing water that has been isolated for up to half a million years.

In the early hours of Christmas Day Professor Martin Siegert, Principal Investigator of the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth experiment, confirmed that the mission to drill into the lake has been called off for this Antarctic season.

The £8m project is aimed at trying to discover if life is present in the ancient lake more than 3,000 metres below the ice.

The Lake Ellsworth Consortium is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). It features two of NERC’s Centers of Excellence – British Antarctic Survey and the National Oceanography Centre – and nine UK universities.