Science News

Antarctic drilling difficulties

On Saturday the search for life beneath the ice in the Antarctic ran into a complication with the main boiler used to heat the water that powers the drill by melting through the thick ice.

A circuit controlling the primary burner – required to start the boiler and so begin drilling – failed to start on commencement of the drilling. The technical difficulties were luckily discovered early on so a lot of fuel remains for when the problem has been fixed. A back-up boiler is in place and was used successfully to ensure the water needed for drilling was melted, although drilling is unlikely to start again until the 21st of December when a replacement component for the primary burner has arrived and been set up. The problem with having to restart drilling lies in that the whole system was designed to be used in one go, as there is the danger of ice forming in the drilling pipes, although there is currently no issue with this.

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