British researchers are preparing to embark on an expedition to a remote location of Antarctica in order take samples from an ancient lake underneath the ice sheet to determine if it holds organisms never before discovered.
Scientists are heading to Lake Ellsworth which is located under an ice sheet that is more than two miles thick. The lake contains fresh water and scientists hope to find new organisms that have never been discovered.
The lake could also provide the first definitive explanation for the existence of the ice sheet above the buried Antarctic lake.
The actual drilling of the ice sheet is set for December of this year with nearly a dozen researchers preparing to arrive in Antarctica towards the end of November. They will set up the expedition site which will be located in West Antarctica, according to a statement by project leader Martin Siegert, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol.
Once situated in Antarctica, the scientists will begin to drill to the lake, which researchers stated is about seven miles long, more than a mile wide and almost 500 feet deep.
The expedition will take place after nearly 16 years of extensive planning because of the heavy machinery that will need to be transported and maintained in the harsh climate of Antarctica.
Once the drilling is complete, researchers will collect 24 containers of lake water that will hold a mere 3.3 ounces, as well as sediment from the lake.
It is estimated it is going to take three days of drilling to reach the surface of the lake. Researchers will only have about 24 hours before the hole freezes over.
"When the probe comes to the surface, we won't be able to analyze the water, but we will be able to analyze the filter immediately. We will look at it under a microscope within a few hours. So the question, 'Is there life in the lake?,' we will have an answer very quickly," Siegert told OurAmazingPlanet.com.