Lake Ellsworth in the Antarctic which was discovered in 1996 is 3km below the ice, Pictured here with Ellsworth mountains

Lake ellsworth 3km below the ice at the drilling site pictured with ellsworth mountains Charted contoured view of lake ellsworth

Lake Ellsworth is an ancient lake still in liquid form laying 3km below the ice in the antarctic

In December 2012 The lake is to be explored for the first time in what is thought to be possibly half a million years and as lake Ellsworth has been isolated for hundreds of thousands of years there is a lot of excitement in the methods used and the potential results that could be found!
Think about it, there could be life forms found that have been disconnected with our known world for hundreds of thousands of years, the evolution of this life could be very different!

sectional view of the drilling process from camp site to lake 3km below

How do you Sample half million year old lake water and sediment that is 3km below the surface of the Ice in Antarctica in an extreme environment? To do this at Lake Ellsworth a team of scientists and engineers have over 16 years planned, designed and deployed a special Drilling rig to drill down the 3km depth of the ice by using a special custom made hot water drilling head, the probe has onboard special water and sediment sampling systems, cameras and other equipment to explore this exciting world under the ice. The picture above on the left shows a contoured map of the lake 3km under the ice and on the right is a sectional view of the drilling process from the camp on top of the ice 3km down to the lake.  To find out all the information and updates on the progress and outcome of this mission please follow these links:

- The Lake Ellsworth website
- Lake Ellsworth Facebook page
- Lake Ellsworth Twitter page
- British Antarctic Survey website

or please read further down this page for more information about Lake Ellsworth and the mammoth project to drill 3km down to it.

What can we do for you?

© Copyright 2011 safire associates

What was our involvement in the project?

Working with the National oceanography centre’s engineers and scientists we were involved in producing some of the parts used and involved in the drilling and sampling rigs, please read on to see our involvement:
Shown below is some of the parts and work produced.

Testing deployment and use of the drilling head and probe:
The engineers involved in the development of the drilling rig and probe that is to be used at lake Ellsworth can be seen here conducting trials for the deployment and use of the drilling head and probe. Extensive trials had to be done here at their base in Southampton as once the equipment gets to Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica there will be spares and some workshop facilities but there are no companies to help or suppliers for further spares. So they had to iron out every single potential issue before they left. You can see in these pictures some of the parts we produced which have been identified in the web page above. In these pictures you can see how it is all assembled and on the bottom right picture you can see the size of the probe. If you would like to know more please visit:
- The Lake Ellsworth website
- Lake Ellsworth Facebook page
- Lake Ellsworth Twitter page
- British Antarctic Survey website
Probe deployment test C Probe deployment test A Probe deployment test D Probe deployment test E Probe deployment test B
Titanium parts:

Waterjet cutting is an excellent way to profile cut all metals and their alloys and it is excellent for cutting titanium plate and titanium sheet metal.
We can work with Titanium in house and on this page we are showing a selection of parts produced for the national oceanographic centre for use on their drilling equipment that they specially designed to bore the 3km hole down through the ice at Lake Ellsworth in Antarctica.
Titanium was selected for some parts as it is stronger than steel and stainless steel, it has excellent corrosion resistance and is over half the weight which was very important with the high cost of transport to the remote location it had to travel.
The parts you see here were produced from various grades and thickness of titanium.
The circle on the top right was waterjet cut from 12mm thick grade 2 titanium plate, the holes were
de-burred and some of them tapped with metric threads, there is a steel 6” rule in the picture to give you a sense of scale.
The spanners you can see on the right were waterjet cut from 3mm thick grade 5 titanium plate to a tight tolerance and then final machined on a cnc milling machine for the mouth openings so they would fit with the required precision of the job. These spanners are to be used in an air sealed chamber and had to be very light but strong, you can see a penny in the picture to give you a sense of scale.
Along the bottom on the left and on the right are a selection of titanium parts waterjet cut from 20mm thick grade 2 titanium plate, there were to be final machined and used  for clamping arms and locks in the drilling head and probe assembly.
Water jet cutting is an excellent way to profile titanium plate and sheet as it is a cold cutting erosion process, with no heat effected Zone this means the cuts are clean, the metal is left unchanged thermally and from us you get nice clean and crisp parts!
Titanium disc water jet cut from 12mm thick grade 2 titanium plate Titanium spanners water jet cut from 3mm thick grade 5 titanium sheet Titanium plate water jet cut ready for machining Titanium clamp parts waterjet cut from 20mm thick titanium plate 10mm thick titanium plate waterjet cut drilled and tapped
There were many aluminium parts produced for the drilling rig, probe and ancillary equipment, much of which was water jet cut from 12mm thick aluminium plate.
Shown on the left is one of the big aluminium discs water jet cut from from 12mm thick aluminium plate with some holes counter sunk and other holes machined to take stainless steel helicoil inserts. Stainless steel Helicoil inserts were used because it adds a hard wearing thread to the aluminium, if the aluminium was threaded on it’s own it would be easy to damage the threads in the harsh conditions and environment that this will be used in.
The other aluminium parts shown on this page were various discs and covers used on the drilling rig and probe All the aluminium  parts produced were electroplated with a “sulphuric acid anodised” finish for industrial protection to the aluminium.
large bore disc cut from aluminium large aluminium disc waterjet cut and machined machined holes in 12mm thick aluminium a aluminium lid water jet cut from 6mm thick aluminium plate
PVC Plastic parts:
We also water jet cut and machined quite a few parts in white PVC plastic for the probe preparation, the picture above on the left shows all the parts ready for assembly and on the right are the scientists and engineers in the laboratory assembling the probe, due to its long length and fragile nature, it was assembled and prepared on specially designed jig manufactured in PVC. We waterjet cut the parts from  12mm thick PVC sheet and machined them to the drawings supplied by the designers and engineers.
The probe assembly in the lab Pvc parts waterjet cut from 12mm thick pvc plate
Aluminium parts:
More information about the Lake Ellsworth project:

Lake Ellsworth is 12 km long by 3km wide with a total area of about 28.9 km2. It is the size of Lake Windermere in England and in October 2012, Finally after 16 years of planning a team of British scientists, engineers and support staff travelled a 16,000 km journey from the UK to Antarctica to collect samples of water and sediments from the ancient lake buried beneath three kilometres of ice

The plan is to reveal secrets about the Earth’s past climate and discover life forms that may live in sub-glacial Lake Ellsworth on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

From 2009 to 2012 a team of engineers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) stretched the boundaries of polar technology to design and build a state-of-the-art titanium water-sampling probe and a bespoke sediment corer capable of being lowered down a three kilometre hole bored in the ice, the bore hole is made by a custom-built hot-water drill. Added to the challenge every piece of technology had to be sterilised to space industry standards to ensure this unexplored lake remains pristine.
Just setting up the base and preparing all the equipment to start the mission will be a challenge in the extreme environment but added to this the science team will have just 24 hours to sample the lake before the borehole they create re-freezes and re-seals the lake. The working conditions will typically be in temperatures around minus 25°C and wind speeds averaging 25 knots.

In 2012 Martin Siegert from the University of Bristol said:
“For the first time we are standing at the threshold of making new discoveries about a part of our planet that has never been explored in this way. Finding life in a lake that could have been isolated for up to half a million years is an exciting prospect, and the lake-bed sediments have the potential to paint a picture of the history of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in a way that we haven’t seen before. The team’s mission is to get into the deep field and bring back clean, valid samples of lake water and lake-bed sediments, which can be brought back to the UK for in depth analysis.”

It will take 100 hours of non-stop, hot-water drilling required to create the borehole through the ice to Lake Ellsworth. The engineers will then have 24 hours to deploy the water and sediment-sampling equipment. During this process the team will use a bespoke 1.5 MW boiler to melt ice to provide 90,000 litres of water for the hot-water drill. The drill will pressurise the water to 2,000 psi and then pump this water at 210 litres per minute through a 3.5km bespoke hose to create a 360mm wide borehole.
This research is at the frontier of exploration and has been made possible through the unique partnership created by two Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Centres of Excellence, and eight UK universities. The Lake Ellsworth consortium programme is funded by NERC and draws together the UK’s top engineering, scientific and logistical capacities.

I would like to thank the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) as some of the pictures and text content on this web page were provided by them.

If you would like to know more please visit:
- The Lake Ellsworth website
- Lake Ellsworth Facebook page
- Lake Ellsworth Twitter page
- British Antarctic Survey website
safire waterjet about us safire water jet project gallery safire water jet location safire water jet request a quote
© Copyright 2011 safire associates
SubScribe 8-)

Quick contact