Scientists punched through thick Antarctic ice to reach a lake isolated from the rest of the world for thousands of years. The isolation of this cold water sitting under glaciers may lead to the discovery of new life.
Funding for this research comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The isolated body of water, named Lake Whillans, is located 2600 feet below Antarctic glaciers. Researchers used a hot-water drill to melt away a hole in the ice.
A series of lakes and rivers was discovered beneath the Antarctic ice sheet through analysis of airborne and satellite radar imagery. The NSF says a "Lakes vary in size, with the largest being Vostok Subglacial Lake in the Antarctic interior that is comparable in size to Lake Ontario."
Researchers targeted the smaller Lake Whillans for scientific exploration. Water samples retrieved from the lake will be shipped to research institutions around the world.
The NSF says "The samples may contain microscopic life that has evolved uniquely to survive in conditions of extreme cold and lack of light and nutrients. Studying the samples may help scientists understand not only how life can survive in other extreme ecosystems on Earth, but also on other icy worlds in our solar system."
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