Scientists hope to explore buried lake

Oct. 11, 2011 at 9:06 PM

LONDON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- British scientists say their expedition to an antarctic lake hidden under miles of ice could reveal unknown forms of life and clues to future climate impacts.

Researchers with $11 million from Britain's Natural Environment Research Council plan to use hot water to melt though 2 miles of ice to reach Lake Ellsworth, isolated from the outside world under a glacier for at least 125,000 years, the BBC reported Monday.

Lake Ellsworth is about 6 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide, kept liquid under its ice cover by natural geothermal heat coming from the Earth's interior.

Researchers will use a hot-water drill on the end of a 2-mile-long hose to melt a 15-inch diameter hole through the ice to the lake's water far below the surface of Antarctica.

"If we're successful, we'll make profound discoveries on both the limits to life on Earth and the history of West Antarctica," principal investigator Martin Siegert from Edinburgh University said.

None of the estimated 387 sub-glacial lakes on Antarctica have ever been sampled, although a Russian-led team is targeting the biggest, Lake Vostok, and U.S. team is preparing to investigate Lake Whillans, the BBC said.

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