Search Begins for Life in Antarctic Lake
Lake Ellsworth has been isolated for up to 500K years
By Liam Carnahan, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 12, 2012 8:36 AM CST
The Antarctic sunlight illuminates the surface of the sea ice.   (AP Photo/NSIDC, University of Colorado)

(Newser) – What lurks in the pitch black, near-freezing waters of Lake Ellsworth? That's what British researchers, who began their trek to the lake in October 2011, hope to find out in as soon as a week. They've begun drilling through more than two miles of ice to reach the water, kept just above freezing by the rocks beneath it, reports the BBC. And while others have drilled into Antarctic lakes before, this marks the first time it'll be done using ultra-sterilized equipment. "Unless we keep the experiment very clean, we're likely just to measure the things that we bring down us with, which would be pointless," says the lead scientist.

It'll take five days to create the borehole (the deepest ever made in this fashion) using a high-pressure hose that blasts sterilized water heated to about 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers will then have to rapidly collect samples before it freezes closed—and they hope to find microbial life that has developed in ways never seen before. Should they do so, it could have out-of-this-world implications. "If there's life on [Jupiter's] Europa it'll be living in a very similar way to life in Lake Ellsworth," says the scientist, "with total darkness, lots of pressure, and using chemical processes rather than sunlight to power biological processes." Results could come as early as next week.

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Showing 3 of 27 comments
Dec 13, 2012 4:19 PM CST
Sounds like Canada?
Dec 12, 2012 5:26 PM CST
Don't forget your mittens. Might be chilly there...
Dec 12, 2012 9:23 AM CST
Who gives a shit if there is microbial life on Jupiter's moons? There is certainly life elsewhere in the universe. Earth is hardly unique among the billions or suns and galaxies. The superstitious arrogance of religious control freaks have brainwashed idiots for a few thousand years claiming our God created uniqueness. No way that is is true. People should listen to Stephen Hawkings - who says we shouldn't be making such an effort to broadcast our existence. The problem is - something dangerous and technologically far advanced out there may be listening. Haven't you watched Star Trek?