Antarctic Team Delays Probe for Life in Lake Under Ice

A team of British scientists who are drilling through three kilometers (2 miles) of ice to search for life in a sub-glacial lake are facing a delay after a component of their boiler broke.

The researchers were using a secondary burner to melt snow needed for their hot-water drill when that failed two days ago, the British Antarctic Survey, a member of the drilling group, said today in an e-mailed statement.

“Both units demonstrated the same problem,” the BAS said. “The engineering team is in contact with the manufacturers of the units who are helping them to determine the cause of the malfunction.”

The researchers had hoped to reach Lake Ellsworth, 3 kilometers under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, yesterday. They wanted to deploy probes today to see if any organisms survive in the waters of the lake. Instead, they’re waiting for a new component, and are unlikely to begin drilling again until Dec. 21, BAS said.

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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