ake Ellsworth lies below ice that is at least two miles (3.2km) thick. Its pitch-black waters have remained isolated and unseen for up to half a million years. This will be the first attempt to extract uncontaminated samples of water and sediment from a body of water so far below the surface.
The investigation is part of a search to understand the limits of where life is possible and, despite the high pressures and lack of sunlight, it is likely that microbes will be detected. The lake is about 14km long, 3km wide and 160m deep - about the size of Lake Windermere, England's largest.
In a region of Antarctica notorious for its low temperatures and near-constant winds, operating at this location is a huge challenge. The project is made all the tougher because of the need for all the equipment to be kept sterile throughout the process.
The team behind the £8m project is readying a hot-water drill that will be used to blast a hole from the surface of the ice all the way down to the lake.