Antarctic lake mission called off
In the early hours of Christmas Day Professor Martin Siegert of the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth experiment, confirmed that the mission to drill into the lake has been called off for this season.
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.
Professor Siegert said, "On Christmas Eve we took the decision to cease our efforts to directly measure and sample Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. 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.
" I am also hugely grateful to the UK Natural Environment Research Council for making it possible for us to attempt the direct exploration of subglacial Antarctica. Sixteen years ago, we hypothesised that deep-water subglacial lakes are viable habitats for life, and contain important records of ice and climate history. For now, these hypotheses remain untested. Once back in the UK I will gather our consortium to seek ways in which our research efforts may continue. I remain confident that we will unlock the secrets of Lake Ellsworth in coming seasons."
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