EDINBURGH, Scotland, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A four-man science team led by the British Antarctic Survey's Andy Smith has started exploring an ancient lake hidden deep beneath Antarctica's ice sheet.
Smith and colleagues from the universities of Edinburgh and Northumbria said Lake Ellsworth -- two miles beneath the ice and about 11 miles in area -- could provide important information about life on Earth, climate change and future sea-level rise.
"This is the first phase of what we think is an incredibly exciting project," said Smith, who noted the lake is about 345 feet deep. "This means Lake Ellsworth is a deep-water body and confirms the lake as an ideal site for future exploration missions to detect microbial life and recover climate records."
University of Edinburgh Professor Martin Siegert, the project's principal investigator, said the lake is of particular interest since it is likely to have been isolated from the surface for hundreds of thousands of years.
The project involves scientists from 14 United Kingdom universities and research institutes, as well as scientists from Chile, the United States, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and New Zealand.