National Oceanography Centre’s Antarctic mission to find alien life called of,
SCIENTISTS searching for undiscovered life forms in an ancient lake beneath the Antarctic have been forced to call off their mission.
The team, which includes engineers from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, believed water samples and sediment under the ice would bring new knowledge about the evolution of life on earth – and even give clues about life on other planets.
But the project has been abandoned for this Antarctic season because the team ran out of fuel trying to link two underground boreholes.
Professor Martin Siegert, who is leading the mission, said drilling down towards subglacial Lake Ellsworth had been running smoothly over the weekend after hitting snags.
But the experiment came to a grinding halt on Christmas Eve because scientists could not form a water-filled cavity 300 metres beneath the ice – despite trying for more than 20 hours.
The cavity was to link the main borehole with a secondary borehole used to recirculate drilling water back to the surface.
Professor Siegert said the link failed “for reasons that are yet to be determined” – but remains hopeful the mission can be completed in future seasons.
He added: “Although circumstances have not worked out as we would have wished, I am confident that through the huge efforts of the field team, and our colleagues in the UK, we have done as much as we possibly could have done, and I sincerely thank them all.