After 16 years of meticulous planning, a team of British scientists is finally ready to journey to a remote, windswept plain in Antarctica, where they will drill deep into the ice to take the first-ever samples from a lake cut off from the sunlit world for up to 1 million years.
Their target, Lake Ellsworth, may house tiny organisms utterly new to science, and may proffer the first solid clues regarding the age of the massive ice sheet that covers it.
The lake is 7 miles long, a mile wide and about 500 feet deep (12 kilometers by 3 km by 150 meters). It lies in the middle of West Antarctica, hidden beneath nearly 2 miles (3 km) of ice, and scientists plan to use a specially built hot water drill to reach its fresh waters.
A team of a dozen researchers and engineers will assemble at a remote field camp in late November, and drilling is slated to begin in December, said Martin Siegert, the lead investigator for the project and a glaciologist at the University of Bristol. [Stunning Photos of Antarctica's Lake Ellsworth]
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