Search for life beneath Antarctica hits trouble
THE Bristol led project to drill beneath the ice of Antarctica in a search for undiscovered life was hanging in the balance last night after a major drill failure.
The setback could mean the project, 16 years in the planning, would have to be abandoned.
Any delay could lead to the borehole in the ice resealing, and the team only travelled with enough fuel for one attempt.
The team of 12 scientists, led by Bristol University's Professor Martin Siegert, pictured, are firing hot water at the ice to drill 3.5km beneath the surface – with the aim of inserting a specially-designed probe into the ice-locked Lake Ellsworth.
This week's delicious £5 5 O'CLOCKTAIL is a refreshing Tequila Sunrise. Available everyday from our Bar for only £5 between 5pm & 7pm.
Terms: £5 cocktail applies to the cocktail of the week.
Contact: 0117 2448281
Valid until: Monday, May 27 2013
The liquid water lake has been hidden from the outside world for more than half a million years.
The water in the buried lake is kept liquid by heat from geothermal springs, and the scientists believe life may exist in this most remote environment.
Nobody has ever drilled so deeply through the polar ice sheet before, and it is thought the project may revolutionise our understanding of the resilience of life.
If the team can prove the microbes exist, it could have implications for astrophysicists' predictions for where life could exist on other planets.
A spokesman for the project said: "During the weekend a technical issue halted hot water drilling at subglacial Lake Ellsworth.
"It is too early at this stage to say what this means for the project.
"The engineering team is currently investigating the issue."