Lake Whillans principal investigators (from left) glaciologist Slawek Tulaczyk from the University of California in Santa Cruz, Priscu and Powell negotiate which science projects will get priority access down the borehole.
Lake biologist John Priscu transfers Lake Whillans water samples from the borehole to the laboratory.
Members of the Lake Whillans research team celebrate the successful deployment of a camera and probe down the borehole.
Samples from Lake Whillans are preserved in an ice cave at the drill site. Researchers will continue to analyze sediment and water from the lake, and if budgets allow, return next year to continue exploring Antarctica’s hidden bodies of water.
See more DISCOVER Antarctica dispatches:
Mitchell prepares water samples from Lake Whillans.
Team members prepare neon green fiber-optic cable that will eventually connect submersible cameras in the lake to a live video feed at an equipment control room on the surface.
A hot-water drill is the centerpiece of the project. It would eventually bore down more than 2,600 feet to reach the subglacial lake.
Expedition photographer JT Thomas captures an aerial view of the Lake Whillans drill site in West Antarctica, which began to take shape at the end of 2012. Dozens of scientists, engineers and technicians spent weeks at the site as they prepared to probe the lake, monitor ice sheet movement and collect sediment and water samples. The hot water drilling facilities, labs and generators are configured as an "H" in the foreground. A tent city for researchers is in the background.
Hot-water drill system specialist Chad Carpenter, from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, prepares an ultraviolet radiation container. Every instrument lowered into the borehole is sanitized in an enclosed laboratory and packed in plastic containing hydrogen peroxide solution before being delivered to the drilling deck, where it can be treated again with ultraviolet radiation.
Researchers look into the borehole. Nearly half a mile of ice stands between the drilling deck and the surface of Lake Whillans.
See more stories and multimedia from Lake Whillans in this special report.