The Subglacial Lake Ellsworth Consortium is funded by the Natural Environment Research
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At a glance
SCAR Expert group
The team will have just 24 hours to access the lake before the borehole refreezes.
Although hot-water drilling technology has been used extensively by Antarctic scientists
on previous experiments, at 3 km this will be the deepest borehole ever made this
The hot water drill is designed to cope with extraordinary environmental conditions.
It needs to operate continuously for 3 days to create a 360 mm wide borehole through
the ice into the lake.
At -20°C freezing inside the borehole reduces its diameter by 0.6 cm per hour.
Ice and water from the hole need to be recycled as drilling fluid to minimise the
potential for contamination.
Engineer Andy Tait, from British Antarctic Survey, describes the challenge of building
and deploying a hot water drill