London: Scientists are set for a journey to Antarctica this month in the hope of finding life forms trapped beneath 3km of solid ice.
They believe a lake, that has been buried by ice for up to a million years, contains unique microbes that could provide clues to how life evolved on Earth, Sky News reported.
The team from the British Antarctic Survey will prepare the site in the hostile environment above Lake Ellsworth before returning in 2012 to begin drilling a bore hole through the ice.
They will then sample the water and sediment with a titanium probe that has been manufactured using space industry standard “clean technology” to prevent contamination of the lake.
They will also use a special hot-water drill to reach the lake.
A five-metre-long probe will collect 24 water samples at different depths and then take a three-metre core from the sediment.
“For 15 years we’ve been planning to explore this hidden world,” said principle investigator Professor Martin Siegert.
“It’s only now that we have the expertise and technology to drill through Antarctica’s thickest ice and collect samples without contaminating this untouched a pristine environment,” he added.
Lake Ellsworth, which is on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is likely to be the first of the continent’s 387 known sub-glacial lakes to be sampled.