The ANI mechanical team has completed their first big project of the season, a 280 km tractor-train traverse to the Lake Ellsworth drilling site. The tractor-train loaded with equipment arrived at Lake Ellsworth on Saturday November 24, after a difficult journey through soft snow from Union Glacier Camp. The mech team spent five days on site to help lift and place the heavy containers and move cargo and fuel around. They used the two Prinoth BR350 vehicles to groom the snow, flattening and hardening it, so that the Lake Ellsworth team could build the drill site on a flat, level surface. They also created an enormous, 10m x 9m x 3m mound of snow ready to be melted into water to prime the drill system. The team will need approximately 90,000 litres of water for the drill system to be operational, which is an equivalent volume of approximately 270,000 litres of snow. All of that snow will need to be shoveled by hand into the melt tanks
By Sunday evening the main drilling site had been groomed and laid out. The following day the Lake Ellsworth logistics team began to connect up the drilling system and prepare the instruments for their final test prior to the actual deployment. The two deployment containers (for the drill and probe) were placed on the track system that will be used to move them into position.
The science team arrived on Wednesday by Twin Otter and were put to work right away, setting up the field laboratory where the initial samples will be processed and prepared for onward shiping. They also mounted the wellhead that forms the basis of the airlock system and that will allow the team to deploy everything in a sterile environment – an essential requirement for both the science and the environment. Project manager Chris Hill notes that positioning the wellhead "was a big milestone in the setup phase and it was a great sense of achievement to complete it."
Congratulations to everyone for all they have achieved to date and we wish the Lake Ellsworth team success as they move into the next phase of the project, drilling down through 3km of solid ice into the subglacial lake.
The Sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth project aims to drill through 3 km of solid ice into a subglacial lake buried deep in the Antarctic ice sheet to search for life forms in the water and clues to past climate in the lake-bed sediments. Drilling will start in early December and the team expect to penetrate the lake in mid-December.
Follow the SLE team's progress on their blog EllsworthLIVE.org.uk, with photos, daily updates and video.
Photo credit: EllsworthLive.org.uk website