British Team Abandons Antarctic Drilling Mission

After 10 years of planning, the team hit a snag trying to reach Lake Ellsworth.

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A British team exploring Antarctica's Lake Ellsworth has abandoned its plan after just a couple months of drilling through the ice covering its waters, the team announced Thursday.

Led by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey, the team was seeking to drill through two miles of ice to sample Lake Ellsworth's waters, which have remained untouched for millions of years. Earlier this year, Russian scientists successfully sampled Lake Vostok, a similar subglacial lake that took more than 10 years of drilling to reach. The British team had been planning the mission for more than a decade.

According to Martin Siegert, the British team hit trouble about 300 meters into the ice when it was unable to siphon water back to the surface.

[READ: 'Diverse' Bacterial Life Found in Ice-Sealed Antarctic Lake]

"This is, of course, hugely frustrating for us," Siegert said in a statement. "Once back in the UK I will gather our consortium to seek ways in which our research efforts may continue."

The lake, which is near Antarctica's northern tip (southwest of Chile), was discovered in 1996 by Siegert and is believed to be nearly 500 feet deep.

Siegert said the team may try again next year or several years from now. This year has been a big one for Antarctic exploration: Besides the Vostok excavation, American researchers discovered more than 30 types of microbes living in Lake Vida, whose salty waters reach temperatures as low as 8.6 degrees fahrenheit.

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