ancient Antarctic Lake

A team of British researchers are preparing to dig down through three-kilometer-thick ice to sample a lake under the Antarctic in the hope of finding new species and clues about the future impact of climate change.

A team of engineers with 70 tons of gear are to head for Lake Ellsworth in West Antarctica. The lake has been isolated from the outside world for at least 125,000 years — but it could be as many as a million. It’s about 10km long and two to three kilometers wide.

The team’s mission is to prepare the way for the “deep-field” research mission that will take place in October 2012. They will then use hot water to melt through 3,000 meters of ice in order to reach the lake, which remains liquid due to geothermal heat coming from inside the Earth. This technique has been used before in Antarctic experiments, but never this deep. The hot-water drill will need to operate continuously for three days to create a 36cm wide borehole through the ice.