China to drill into subglacial lake in Antarctica -Xinhua

China to drill into subglacial lake in Antarctica

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-02-27 20:04:15

SHANGHAI, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- China's scientific expedition team plans to drill into a subglacial lake buried over 3,600 meters deep beneath the ice cap in Antarctica, a scientist said Tuesday.

The Qilin Subglacial Lake, which was named by China in 2022, is located in the Princess Elizabeth Land in the East Antarctic inland ice sheet, 120 km from China's Taishan station, according to Jiang Su, a researcher at the Polar Research Institute of China.

China has made some early-stage preparations for the scientific drilling of the subglacial lake. During the country's ongoing 40th Antarctic expedition, its expedition team members entered the lake area for the first time and carried out investigations on the selection of drilling sites.

"The Qilin Subglacial Lake, the second-largest buried lake discovered so far in Antarctica, has a developing history of at least 3 million years of isolation from the outside world, thus making it an ideal place to explore subglacial lakes and subglacial life," Jiang said.

The researcher gave no specific timetable for the drilling.

Before launching the drilling, the Polar Research Institute of China will first work with several research institutes in the country to make breakthroughs in key technologies such as clean and retrievable drilling, in-situ probing and clean sampling, on-site processing of microbiological samples in cryogenic environments, and monitoring of microbiological contamination in the drilling process.

Since 2015, China's fixed-wing aircraft for polar flight Snow Eagle 601 has conducted several aerial surveys of the Princess Elizabeth Land area. Based on airborne geophysical data, the subglacial lake is estimated to have a surface area of 370 square kilometers with a water depth of up to 200 meters.

Long covered by the ice sheet, the Antarctic subglacial lakes have unique high-pressure, low-temperature, low-nutrient and dark environmental conditions that provide unique information on biological evolution, climate change as well as the evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Scientific drilling is the only means of obtaining physical samples from subglacial lakes. Since 2012, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia have carried out drilling into and taken samples from three other subglacial lakes in Antarctica.