Antarctic subglacial rivers are found

April 19, 2006

British scientists say plans are to drill beneath the frozen wastes of the Antarctic, to investigate subglacial lakes, are being reviewed.

A team led by University College London scientists has made a discovery that's stalling the research.

In a letter to the journal Nature, they report rivers the size of the Thames have been discovered moving water hundreds of miles under the ice. That finding challenges the widely held assumption the lakes evolved in isolated conditions over several million years and might support microbial life that evolved "independently."

UCL Professor Duncan Wingham, who led the team, said: "Previously, it was thought water moves underneath the ice by very slow seepage. But this new data shows that, every so often, the lakes beneath the ice pop off like champagne corks, releasing floods that travel very long distances.

"A major concern has been that by drilling down to the lakes new microbes would be introduced." he added. "Our data shows any contamination will not be limited to one lake, but will, over time, extend down the length of the network of rivers.

"We had thought of these lakes as isolated biological laboratories. Now we are going to have to think again."

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Geologist to study life in an ice cave atop Mount Rainier

Related Stories

Do micro-organisms explain features on comets?

July 6, 2015

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, studied in detail by the European Space Agency Rosetta and Philae spacecraft since September 2014, is a body with distinct and unexpected features. Now two astronomers have a radical explanation ...

Perennial biofuel crops' water consumption similar to corn

July 6, 2015

Converting large tracts of the Midwest's marginal farming land to perennial biofuel crops carries with it some key unknowns, including how it could affect the balance of water between rainfall, evaporation and movement of ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.