Science Updates

An ancient lake hidden deep beneath West Antarctica’s Ice Sheet may reveal vital clues about climate change and future sea level rises, and uncover new forms of life, according to a group of UK engineers and scientists.

2011 Science Updates

Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth Project (SLE)

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) engineers are preparing to head off to Lake Ellsworth, Antarctica. This is the first stage of an ambitious scientific mission to collect water and sediment samples from the lake, buried beneath three kilometres of solid ice. ALE will transport nearly 70 tonnes of equipment to Antarctica, so that the engineers can prepare the way for the deep-field research mission that will take place next year. In October 2012, a team of 10 scientists and engineers will return to the site and bore a 3 kilometer deep hole through the ice using state-of-the-art hot water drilling technology. They will then lower a titanium probe to measure and sample the water followed by a corer to extract sediment from the lake.

This extraordinary research project, at the frontier of exploration, will yield new knowledge about the evolution of life on Earth and other planets, and will provide vital clues about the Earth’s past climate.

Project website:

Antarctica 1912 – Discovering Science On Ice

Professor Chris Turney, from UNSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, takes us to Antarctica to investigate changes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Turney’s engaging video provides an overview of his research and features stunning views of Union Glacier and surrounding areas. We travel by ski aircraft and linked snowmobile to field sites in the Southern Ellsworth Mountains, where we observe sampling techniques and learn how rock samples provide information about the 3D shape of the ice sheet over time. Professors Chris Turney and Chris Fogwill conducted fieldwork in the Southern Ellworth Mountains in 2010 and 2011, with support provided by ALE.


Brazil’s second scientific station in Antarctica

This season Brazil will set up its second scientific station in Antarctica, only 500km from the South Pole. The module “Criosfera 1” will be flown to Antarctica by ALE, then transported overland to 84S, where it will collect data on temperature, winds, solar radiation, CO2 and humidity and other factors. The data will be relayed via satellite directly to Brazil. ALE will fly fifteen Brazilian scientists to Antarctica to set up the new station, which should be completed and operational by January 2012.

Header Image: Camping in the deep field, Lake Ellsworth, Antarctica 78°58’34”S, 090°31’04”W. This is one of the most extreme and isolated locations on Earth with very cold temperatures (down to -25C) and high winds. Credit: British Antarctic Survey


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