Navigation Links
Engineering team completes ambitious Antarctic expedition in the 'deep-field'
Date:1/15/2012

A team of four British engineers has returned to the UK after completing a gruelling journey to one of the most remote and hostile locations on the planet to put in place equipment and supplies for an ambitious project later this year. Enduring temperatures of minus 35C the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth 'Advance Party' has successfully paved the way to explore an ancient lake buried beneath 3 km of Antarctic ice. A powerful 'tractor-train' towed nearly 70 tonnes of equipment across Antarctica's ice over deep snow and steep mountain passes. In December a science and engineering team will make the 16,000 km journey from the UK to collect water and sediments from the buried lake.

Lake Ellsworth will be the first Antarctic subglacial lake to be measured and sampled directly through the design and manufacture of space-industry standard 'clean technology'. Scientists have been planning for more than 15 years to access the lake, which is one of more than 400 known subglacial lakes in Antarctica, in the quest to yield new knowledge about the evolution of life on Earth and other planets. Lake-bed sediments could also provide vital clues about the Earth's past climate. Through a bore hole, drilled using high-pressure hot water, the team will lower a titanium probe to measure and sample the water, followed by a corer to extract sediment from the lake.

The Advance Party team paved the way for this mission by transporting the drilling equipment more than 250 km through the Ellsworth Mountain range, over deep-snow terrain and crevasses to the Lake Ellsworth drilling site. The final leg of this journey was the most challenging and required powerful tractors to tow heavy containers of equipment on sledges and skis, forming a 'tractor-train'. The soft, deep snow and concrete-hard 'sastrugi' snow forms caused the Advance Party's progress to slow, but after three days they safely reached the Lake Ellsworth drilling site.

Andy Tait, Advance Party Member and Hot Water Drill Designer / Engineer says, "Lake Ellsworth is extremely remote, cold and hostile ambient temperatures dropped to -35C and with wind chill they dropped further still making living and working on site a physical challenge. We deliberately located the equipment over a kilometer (1.7km) from the drill site to protect it during the harsh Antarctic winter. We will move it to its final position and set up the rig ready for drilling in December.

"Severe winds and the extreme environmental conditions of the area made it vital that we spent a number of days winterising the equipment. Windblown snow will partially bury the equipment and this area of Antarctica is so vast that it would be difficult to find it again without the GPS locators we fitted at the corners of the site. Going back to live there for three months in November will certainly be an experience!"

Chris Hill, Advance Party Member and Lake Ellsworth Programme Manager says, "This is a major milestone for the programme and we are delighted that our complex logistical operations were a success this season. Working within the short Antarctic summer season adds pressure to our time on the continent, which is why we had to plan two stages of the programme. The drilling season is nearly upon us, and we still have a long way to go before we can access Lake Ellsworth, but the success of the Advance Party this season certainly puts us in a good position for November."

The Lake Ellsworth Programme Principal Investigator, Professor Martin Siegert from the University of Edinburgh says, "The completion of this stage of the mission is a welcome one we are now one step closer to finding out if new and unique forms of microbial life could have evolved in this environment. The samples we hope to capture from Lake Ellsworth will be hugely valuable to the scientific community. This year we will complete and test both the water sampling probe and the sediment corer. Extracted sediment samples could give us an important insight in to the ancient history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, including past collapse, which would have implications for future sea level rise."

The Lake Ellsworth consortium has published a paper describing how the sampling of Lake Ellsworth can be undertaken with minimal environmental impact - Reviews of Geophysics: Clean access, measurement, and sampling of Ellsworth Subglacial Lake: A method for exploring deep Antarctic subglacial lake environments http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2011RG000361.shtml


'/>"/>

Contact: Athena Dinar
amdi@bas.ac.uk
44-122-322-1414
British Antarctic Survey
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. GeneArt® Algae Engineering Kits by Life Technologies™
2. New Columbia engineering technique diagnoses non-periodic arrhythmias in a single heartbeat
3. Engineering cartilage replacements
4. Bioengineering yields new approaches for diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injury
5. Arizona Engineering associate professor earns national recognition
6. GeneArt® Algae Engineering Kits by Life Technologies™
7. Creation of the largest human-designed protein boosts protein engineering efforts
8. Manufacturing microscale medical devices for faster tissue engineering
9. UM College of Engineering receives $1 million grant from the Department of Energy
10. Testing geoengineering
11. VTT and the MSI combine their unique competencies to a new Center for Bioengineering
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/9/2016)... Feb. 9, 2016 Aware, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWRE ), ... results for its fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2015.  ... the fourth quarter of 2015 was $6.9 million, an increase of ... Operating income in the fourth quarter of 2015 was $2.6 million ... --> --> Higher revenue and ...
(Date:2/8/2016)... , February 8, 2016 ... platform which presents innovation for clients, comfort and ... called VoiceKey. --> Worldcore is ... innovation for clients, comfort and unbeatable security, with ... --> Worldcore is the first ...
(Date:2/4/2016)... , Feb. 4, 2016 The field ... one of the most popular hubs of the ... and other huge studies of human microbiota, have ... few years, the microbiome space has literally exploded ... research. This report focuses on biomedical aspects ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/11/2016)... Calif. , Feb. 11, 2016  Dovetail Genomics™ ... to its beta program for a planned metagenomic genome ... present the company,s metagenomic genome assembly method in a ... in Genome Biology & Technology conference in ... of these highly complex datasets is difficult. Using its ...
(Date:2/11/2016)... ... February 11, 2016 , ... ... stem cell treatment clinic in Quito, Ecuador. The new facility will provide advanced ... to patients from around the world. , The new GSCG clinic is ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... 2016 ASAE is introducing a hybrid membership ... (AMC) the option of joining or renewing through an ... by staff size, every employee in any size association ... reap all available member benefits.   John ... membership options will allow organizations of any size and ...
(Date:2/10/2016)... Austin, Texas (PRWEB) , ... February 10, 2016 ... ... research centers across three states, announced today the promotion of two long-standing principal ... and Chief of Family Medicine, Clinical Research and Development. , Dr. Laurence Chu, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: