Research into an Antartic lake, 3 km underground

I saw this news story on the BBC news the other day and it captured my imagination.

Under the surface of Antartica there are water reservoirs which are deep underground. A research project is just beginning in which they will make a 3 km hole to reach the water. Although the surface of Antartica is frozen solid, the reservoir is liquid because of the heat from the earth’s core. The news story emphasized that the priority of the preparation for this project is the need to maintain high standards of hygiene. The same level as in an operating theatre even though the probe  has to drill down through 3 km of ice! It seems that even the lowest quantity  of  impurity will affect the results.

diagram of  the proposed research project

1. A hot water drill will melt through the frozen ice sheet, which is up to 3km (2 miles) thick. After drilling, they will have an estimated 24 hours to collect samples before the borehole re-freezes

2. A probe will be lowered through the borehole to capture water samples

3. A specialised corer will then recover sediment from the floor of the lake through the same borehole

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