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Researchers to look for life in hidden lake


Researchers plan to bore into a freshwater lake buried 3.4 kilometres below the ice crust (Courtesy NASA)
Researchers plan to bore into a freshwater lake buried 3.4 kilometres below the ice crust (Courtesy NASA)

Kevan Karanjia, Staff Writer

December 12, 2012 — A British research team is embarking on a mission to determine whether life exists inside a remote Antarctic lake. The team of 12 scientists are seeking to discover the environmental limitations to sustaining life.

Scientists will have 24 hours to collect water and sediment samples before the lake freezes over (Courtesy NASA)
Scientists will have 24 hours to collect water and sediment samples before the lake freezes over (Courtesy NASA)

"This monumental British project is internationally pioneering, both scientifically and technically, and could revolutionize our understanding of the hidden world beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet," said project participant Dr. Neil Ross in a press release. 

"Having spent four months of my life above Lake Ellsworth remotely imaging and mapping the lake and its surrounding sub-ice landscape, I am incredibly excited to hear what its direct exploration will reveal."

Using a hot water drill, the researchers plan to bore into a freshwater lake buried 3.4 kilometres below the ice crust.

They hope to reach water that last had contact with the atmosphere and sunlight over 500,000 years ago. 

Once the team has reached the lake, they will have 24 hours to collect water and sediment samples before it freezes over. 

All the equipment used for the exploration has been specially sterilized in order to avoid introducing new microorganisms to the environment. 

It is hoped that if life is found to exist in such extreme conditions, there are possibilities that it could survive other environments such as Jupiter's moon Europa.

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