Extreme Antarctic Drilling

There is excitement in the air at ALE as we gear up for the new season, especially because of our logistic role in one of the top Antarctic science projects this year.

Searching for Life in Antarctica’s Subglacial Lakes

This season, after years of planning and logistic preparations, a team of British scientists and engineers will drill through 3 km of solid ice into a subglacial lake buried deep in the Antarctic ice sheet to search for life forms in the water and clues to past climate in the lake-bed sediments.

This is one of the most anticipated explorations of our time. There are over 300 subglacial lakes in Antarctica. For years scientists have speculated that clues to the Earth’s past climate may be locked in lake sediments, and that unique forms of life may have adapted to these extraordinary habitats.

The only way to find out is to drill down to the lake – one of the most extreme drilling operations attempted anywhere in Antarctica. Drilling starts in early December and the team expect to penetrate the lake in mid-December. Sampling will have to be done within 24 hours before the hole re-freezes.

ALE Provides Logistic Support

ALE has been involved from an early stage, providing the logistic back-up to make the project feasible. Overall, we will fly nearly 80 tonnes of equipment to our base camp on Union Glacier then transport it all to the drill site, some 295km away, using our tractor train capability. ALE has worked closely with the project managers at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to get everything in place in time for the start of drilling in December and to make sure that none of the equipment contaminates the Antarctic environment.

Operations Manager, Mike Sharp, says,

“This is one of the most ambitious logistics projects I have ever been involved with. The planning has gone on for several years and I am proud of the way our staff have risen to the challenge to make this project possible. We are all excited to see the drilling commence and will be closely following the team’s progress. It’s just incredible to think that there could be life down there.”

Related News: ALE Named Primary Logistics Provider for Lake Ellsworth; Science Updates 2011

Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth Project website: www.ellsworth.org.uk

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