ALE took part in logistic planning for a project to explore Lake Ellsworth and was subsequently named as the primary logistics provider for this major scientific undertaking. ALE flew nearly 70 tonnes of equipment to our base camp at Union Glacier then transported it all to the drill site, some 295 km away, using our tractor train capability.
Traverse to Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth
The traverse followed a route proved by researchers from the Centro de Estudios Científicos (CECs) with the use of ground penetrating radar (GPR) operated from ALE’s tractors. ALE’s mechanical team spent five days on site to help lift and place the heavy containers and position cargo and fuel dumps. They used the two Prinoth BR350 vehicles to groom the snow, flattening and hardening it, so that the Lake Ellsworth team could build the drill site on a flat, level surface. They also created an enormous 10m x 9m x 3m mound of snow ready to be melted into water to prime the drill system.
About the Project
The UK based Subglacial Lake Ellsworth Consortium, involving the British Antarctic Survey, the UK National Oceanography Centre and a number of partner universities worldwide, aimed to explore Lake Ellsworth to look for life in the lake and acquire records of past ice and climate change. The plan was to access the lake using a specially engineered hot-water drill through 3 km of ice.
Drilling had to stop on December 25, 2012 because the team were unable to link the main borehole to a subsurface water cavity they had formed. Without this link, there was insufficient water to continue drilling down towards the lake.
ALE assisted in clearing the Lake Ellsworth site, including retrograde of equipment to Union Glacier and out of Antarctica over subsequent seasons.
View project details at www.ellsworth.org.uk
The exploration of Lake Ellsworth is a component of a plan to explore Antarctic Subglacial Lake Environments (a SCAR research program).