Glaciologists use explosive devices to conduct a seismic survey of Lake Ellsworth. Scientists can determine the depth, length, width and position of subglacial lakes from seismic waves caused by the explosions.
Searching for life in Lake Ellsworth, and dead whales
26 July 2011
This week in the Planet Earth Podcast: why scientists are planning on drilling three kilometres beneath the Antarctic ice sheet in one of the most ambitious exploration projects ever undertaken; and how worms that feed on dead whale bones at the bottom of the ocean may be distorting the whale fossil record.
Since the 1970s, scientists have discovered over 150 lakes locked underneath Antarctica's vast ice sheets. One of them, Lake Ellsworth, lies beneath over three kilometres of ice. Scientists think it's been isolated from the surface for hundreds of thousands of years, which raises the tantalising possibility that it may harbour as-yet undiscovered forms of life.
In 2009, an international team was given the go-ahead to explore this ancient lake, in a project called Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. Richard Hollingham goes to Cambridge to meet some of the researchers involved to find out just how technically challenging the task is.
Click the play button above to listen now.
A full text transcript is available.
Finally, in our latest audio diary, we hear from researcher Nick Higgs from the University of Leeds who's on a ship in the Pacific Ocean searching for dead whales at the bottom of the ocean. You'll have to listen to find out why.
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