Subglacial Lake Ellsworth (British scientists & engineers)

Expedition News-Official Website

From 22.10.2012 to - Status: postponed

Discovering the secrets of the Antarctic

Discovering the secrets of the Antarctic

© Expedition website

In December 2012, a group of British scientists and engineers plan to drill through 3 kil of ice into a buried lake called subglacial Lake Ellsworth.

They aim to search for life forms in the isolated water as well as clues to past climate in the lake-bed sediments. This is an amazing project and one of the highlights of our austral summer season.

This drilling project is all the more interesting as it is supported by the famous NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) ; in addition, quite a few members of the scientific team belong to (or have worked for) the BAS (British Antarctic Survey). A proof of seriousness.

A quite interesting website

What is even more surprising is that although these official british institutes usually do not communicate easily with the non scientific world, this time they seem to want to be understood by a great number of people.

In fact, their web site is quite fascinating. Because, after a serious visit, you can imagine how they'll do to drill 3 kil of solid ice, want they are going to do with the water samples, how all the teams are organized for living in the base camp ; you'll understand the importance of discovering the secrets of these hidden waters, as well as the importance these subglacial lakes may have on the polar environment. You'll discover here what the expedition will do to keep the site (and of course the lake) clean.

Entering the scientific world

An example of how far goes the expedition website regarding the scientific information. Here, the importance of the subglacial lakes :

"The sugbglacial lakes are important because: their potential for unusual life forms could shed new light on evolution of life in harsh conditionslake-floor sediments could yield vital clues to past climatethey can also help us understand the extraterrestrial environment of Europa (one of the moons of Jupiter)the largest and most well known subglacial lake Vostok on East Antarctica which is roughly the size of Lake Ontario.although Lake Ellsworth is thought to be younger than Vostok it is essentially the same environment, which means life living here will be able to survive in any other lake. "  

"Why is the water liquid when it’s covered by ice? the water beneath the ice remains liquid because of small levels of heat from the Earth’s core coming up through bedrock and from the insulating effect of several kilometres of ice above.water acts as a lubricant to the ice above they may influence how the ice sheet flowssome subglacial lakes may be as old as the ice sheet. The age of the water within the lakes will be as old as the ice which melts into them, which in West Antarctica is around 150,000 years ..."

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