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Researchers to bore through 3km of Antarctic ice, seek organisms isolated for 100K years

Steve Dent, @stevetdent
December 3, 2012
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UK researchers are ready to see if life can exist in one of the harshest environments on the planet: Lake Ellsworth in the Antarctic, 3 km (2 miles) below a glacier. They'll try to drill through the ice by December 12th using a high pressure sterile water jet heated to 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit) and sterilize the patch of lake with intense ultraviolet light before attempting to retrieve a sample. If any organisms can be found, they'll have evolved in isolation for at least 100,000 years, according to team, and probably even much longer. That could help scientists understand more about how life evolves on this planet, and possibly elsewhere -- like iced-over oceans on Europa, Jupiter's moon, or other harsh planetary environments. It'll be the deepest borehole ever made with hot water, and the team will have a mere 24 hours to sterilize the lake entry and collect samples before it refreezes. When asked which part of the tricky experiment worried him the most, lead scientist Chris Hill replied, "everything." For a video tour of the drill site, head below the break.

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