Live updates

Professor: Ice mission cancellation 'hugely frustrating'

Professor Martin Siegert said the aborted mission was "hugely frustrating":

This is of course, hugely frustrating for us, but we have learned a lot this year._

Although circumstances have not worked out as we would have wished, I am confident that through the huge efforts of the field team, and our colleagues in the UK, we have done as much as we possibly could have done, and I sincerely thank them all._



Antarctic lake drilling mission called off

A team of Bristol scientists has called off its mission to drill deep into an Antarctic ice sheet in the hope of finding life in an ancient lake.

Drilling was proceeding well during the weekend after a replacement part was fitted to the boiler used to heat water for drilling.

Drilling stopped after the team was unable to form properly the water-filled cavity 300 metres beneath the ice.

This cavity was to link the main borehole with a secondary borehole used to recirculate drilling water back to the surface.


24 hours to drill through 3km of ice in -25 C

The drilling has begun today - and the team have just 24 hours to gather samples before the borehole refreezes. And all in -25 C. Tanya Mercer's report contains video from Pete Bucktrout British Antarctic Survey

Scientists from Bristol University are in Antarctica on a mission that could hold the clue to whether there's life on Mars. They're drilling through 3km of solid ice to try to find lifeforms in the water and mud underneath Lake Ellsworth.


Bristol scientists drill Antarctic ice cap

Drill site Credit: British Antarctic Survey

A team of scientists from Bristol University is preparing to drill through 3km of solid ice into subglacial Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica. Their mission is to search for life forms in the water and clues to past climate in the lake-bed sediments.

The University says it's one of the most exciting and ambitious explorations of our time. The team will have just 24 hours to sample the lake before the borehole re-freezes and re-seals the lake. Typical working conditions will be in minus 25°C and 25 knot winds.

They'll be using a a state-of-the-art titanium water-sampling probe and a bespoke sediment corer capable of being lowered down a three kilometre borehole in the ice made by a custom-built hot-water drill.

To add to the challenge every piece of technology has to be sterilised to space industry standards to ensure this unexplored lake remains pristine. For regular updates on the team's progress, visit the Lake Ellsworth blog.