In an attempt to prove that life can exist in the harshest environments, British researchers are drilling 3 kilometers deep below a glacier in Lake Ellsworth, Antarctic. The team from U.K. will start the mission on the 12th this month. They will utilize a sterile hot water drill to dig through the subglacial Lake Ellsworth.
There are over 3670 subglacial lakes in Antarctica, and Lake Ellsworth is just one of them. The main goal of the mission is to uncover organisms lurking within the deep, organisms that may have existed and evolved for a million years. If successful, the samples could help scientists understand how life evolves on Earth, and in other planets.
“Extreme environments tell you what constraints there are on life,” says Mike Bentley, a geologist joining the team. “If we find a particular set of environments where life can’t exist, that creates some bookends: it tells you about the limits of life.” The researchers are expected to remain in Antarctica until January.