Martin Siegert, the lead investigator for the project and a glaciologist at the University of Bristol, explained in a statement released today from the British Antarctic Survey, which is funding the £8 million (US$13 million) project, that the team received a replacement part and successfully drilled the first borehole over the weekend.
After waiting 12 hours for the cavity to form, the team then drilled the second main borehole, but when it got to a depth of 300 meters there was no cavity there to connect to it. The team continued to find a way to connect the two boreholes together via a cavity for 20 hours.
According to the statement from BAS:
During this process, hot water seeped into the porous surface layers of ice and was lost. The team attempted to replenish this water loss by digging and melting more snow, but their efforts could not compensate. The additional time taken to attempt to establish the cavity link significantly depleted the fuel stocks to such a level as to render the remaining operation unviable. Reluctantly the team had no option but to discontinue the programme for this season.
"On Christmas Eve we took the decision to cease our efforts to directly measure and sample Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. Although circumstances have not worked out as we would have wished, I am confident that through the huge efforts of the field team, and our colleagues in the UK, we have done as much as we possibly could have done, and I sincerely thank them all," said Siegert. "Once back in the UK I will gather our consortium to seek ways in which our research efforts may continue. I remain confident that we will unlock the secrets of Lake Ellsworth in coming seasons."