Mysterious lake buried under 3,500 feet of ice discovered by scientists.
On December 26th scientists finally managed to reach a mysterious Subglacial Lake which was buried under 3,500 feet of ice in Antarctica. In a blog post, the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) announced that it took almost two whole days of drilling to reach Mercer Subglacial Lake during this holiday season.
Twice the size of Manhattan
The team of researchers with the organization was comprised of 45 scientists, drillers, and various other staff members. They were able to drill a borehole big enough to send down an instrument the next day to capture a glimpse of the huge subglacial body of water which was described as “twice the size of Manhattan”.
The group is planning to study the lake further over the coming days such as depth, temperatures, and cleanliness. They are also going to lower a remotely operated vehicle down through the borehole to get more footage and take more extensive measurements about the mysterious lake.
John Priscu, chief scientist for SALSA, told environmental news site Earther Monday that they were unsure of what to expect as it is such a new discovery and they were still learning as they went along. The SALSA team flew to Mercer Subglacial Lake on Dec. 19 and began drilling days later, on Dec. 23.
The Drilling Process
The drilling process is more complicated than just making a hole. There are many steps to take when drilling into a new environment for the first time. Part of that process involves sampling the drill water and testing it for cleanliness. In the words of SALSA PI Brent Christner, it was as clean as filtered water can get.
This came after the water had been tested twice already by running it through filters that are able to catch 99.9% of germs and bacteria. At least eight days have been scheduled by the organization dedicated to sampling and testing the lake’s water and sediments.
Matt Siegfried, a glaciologist and SALSA member, has expressed his excitement by stating that they are currently sampling the deepest standing water body humans have ever accessed beneath Antarctica. It will, however, take many years to study all the samples they collect and process the data before any new concrete information can be released about life in this particular ecosystem.
Mercer Subglacial Lake was first discovered via satellite more than a decade ago, and there are reportedly around 400 lakes just like this one hiding beneath Antarctica’s ice sheets which in my opinion, is very exciting indeed. I will personally be keeping an eye on the news from now on, excited to see what will come from this Subglacial Lake, and potentially many others around it!