Scientists and engineers have reached a subglacial Antarctic lake for the first time using a hot-water drill system that was designed and built by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and engineers from the Northeast Professional Engineering Consultants Group. The UNL team manufactured this drill using systems and parts from a number of U.S. manufacturers, including 6 high-powered Alkota pressure-washing systems.
The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project drilled through the Antarctic ice sheet to reach subglacial Lake Whillans. Using the ice drill powered by Alkota’s power-washing systems, the team was able to bore a 30 centimeter diameter hole through a one-half mile of ice. The goal of the WISSARD project is to collect samples from Lake Whillans, which has been encased by ice and protected from the atmosphere for thousands of years. Using special instruments, the team of researchers is collecting samples of water, sediment, and any biology that may be in the lake while also preventing any contamination.