During the weekend a technical issue halted hot water drilling at Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. On the afternoon of Saturday 15th December 2012, the field team encountered a serious problem with the main boiler that is used to generate the hot water required for drilling down to the lake.
As reported on our blog several days ago the primary burner controller circuit failed upon start up. A secondary burner was fitted and a new circuit ordered to replace the primary one. The secondary burner ran successfully for 4 to 5 days – enough to melt the water required and to begin drilling the borehole for the cavity. Unfortunately, the burner failed at approximately 3pm local time on Saturday.
The replacement component is likely to be with the deep field team in a few days’ time. In the meantime the engineering team is in contact with the manufacturers of the units who are helping them to determine the cause of the malfunction. Both units demonstrated the same problem. When the replacement circuit arrives the engineers will work with the manufacturer to go through the set up procedure. The team is hopeful that this will solve the problem.
If not, a further option is to attempt to bypass the circuit and manually “drive” the burner. The team is discussing operating protocols with the manufacturer before exploring this option further.
It is unlikely that the team will resume drilling before Friday 21 December. Further updates will be posted on here. Please note: Ellsworth is 3 hrs behind UK time. The team is working round the clock on shifts.