Antarctic lake study under way

A team of scientists is starting out on a University-led project to explore a subglacial lake in Antarctica.

An advance party is heading off to Antarctica in a £7 million, five-year project to sample water and sediment from Lake Ellsworth in the west of the continent.

The lake has lain undisturbed under ice 3km thick for several hundred thousand years.

New life forms

This marks the first stage in a project that has been 15 years in the planning and represents an enormous engineering, scientific and logistic challenge.

Professor Martin SiegertSchool of GeoSciences

The advance party of four will acclimatise specialised equipment designed for the project.

This includes a 3.4km hot water hose and drill.

The drill will be used to create a pristine channel from the surface of the ice to the bed of the lake, allowing access for water and sediment samples.

Team effort

Further members of the Lake Ellsworth team will fly out to Antarctica next year, when the project will begin in earnest.

Some 15 partners are involved in the project, which is being led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council.

We are very excited about the discoveries that could be made at Lake Ellsworth and for the benefits this project will bring, in terms of our understanding of life on Earth and the oceans, and the further avenues of research that will open as a result.

Professor Martin SiegertSchool of GeoSciences