Glaciologist Dr John Woodward, together with experts from the British Antarctic Survey and Edinburgh University, will spend five months working in sub zero conditions above Lake Ellsworth - a lake buried beneath 3.4km of ice.
The lake represents an extreme, untouched and unknown habitat.
Dr Woodward said: “Scientists would love to know what is living in these lake environments, and what this might tell us about possible life in extraterrestrial environments such as the frozen moons of Jupiter.”
The £600,000 project has been funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The British Antarctic Survey will be providing the logistic support necessary to conduct the research in one of the most remote areas of Antarctica.
The researchers will spend much of their time trying to identify the optimal site from which to access subglacial lake Ellsworth. Dr Woodward will undertake a seismic survey. The seismic technique uses high explosives to generate a controlled noise source. Sound waves from the explosive shot travel through the ice and are reflected from the ice-water interface (the surface of the lake). Some waves will travel through the water and will then be reflected from the water-bed interface. The echoes that return to the surface are recorded by a series of highly sensitive microphones that are attached to a computer that will allow the depth of the lake to be mapped.
Once the seismic survey has been carried out, the researchers hope to attract more funding to allow them to use a hot-water drill to bore through the ice and access the lake. A slimline robot will then be lowered into the depths, which will carry sensors to detect life and collect sediment samples.
Dr Woodward, 35, of Witton Gilbert in Co. Durham, is a Senior Lecturer in Geography in the School of Applied Sciences at Northumbria University. Prior to this he worked as a researcher for the British Antarctic Survey.
Dr Woodward admitted: “There is competition to be the first team to explore a subglacial lake. A team from Italy would like to explore Lake Concordia and a team from Russia plans to extract water from Lake Vostok, the largest subglacial lake identified. It is vitally important to identify suitable drill sites, and then to plan to conduct the access experiments in an environmentally friendly way so as not to risk contaminating such pristine and isolated environments’’
More than 150 subglacial lakes have been identified in Antarctica, cut off from the outside world by thick caps of ice for tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. Any life forms will have had to adapt to complete darkness, very few nutrients, crushing water pressures and isolation from the atmosphere.
Katrina Alnikizil | alfa
Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation
Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences