Three scientific expeditions seek treasure under the ice in the Frozen Continent

Feb 29, 2012

In a modern iteration of the great age of Antarctic exploration of the 19th and 20th centuries, three teams of scientists are rushing to reach not the South Pole like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton, but lakes deep below the surface of the Frozen Continent believed to hold scientific treasures. That quest by Russian, British and American scientific teams for water samples is the topic of an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society.

C&EN European Correspondent Sarah Everts explains that the Russian mission to Vostok captured global headlines recently when the team bored 2.5 miles through Antarctic ice to reach the lake's ancient water, undisturbed for 15 million years. They want to analyze the lake for signs of life and clues about how life might survive in Earth's most inhospitable places – or on other planets. But that step must wait until late in 2012 when the Antarctic winter ends, allowing travel into the Frozen Continent.

But the Russians are only one team of several trying to understand what kind of life can survive in water beneath the Antarctic ice sheet and how these organisms might do it. The other two may yield even greater scientific treasures. One is an American team that plans to drill with hot water – rather than mechanically, as the Russians did – into a river of ice one half mile below the surface that carries from several underground lakes to the ocean.

Using the same method, British will try to reach Lake Ellsworth, almost two miles below the surface, which may have been isolated for a million years. They hope to make a complete survey of life and nutrient sources in Ellsworth, which is not yet possible for the deeper, colder and more ancient Lake Vostok.

Explore further: How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

More information: Scientists Scope Out Frigid Lakes - cen.acs.org/articles/90/i9/Scientists-Scope-Frigid-Lakes.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists drill two miles down to ancient Lake Vostok

Feb 13, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Russian scientists last week finished penetrating more than two miles through the Antarctic ice sheet to Lake Vostok, a huge freshwater lake that has been buried under the ice for millions ...

Russia 'drills into' Antarctic subglacial lake

Feb 06, 2012

A Russian team has succeeded in drilling through four kilometres (2.5 miles) of ice to the surface of a mythical subglacial Antarctic lake which could hold as yet unknown life forms, reports said Monday.

In scientific coup, Russians reach Antarctic lake

Feb 08, 2012

After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have reached a gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years - a pristine body of water that may hold ...

Recommended for you

How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

2 hours ago

About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for us. Looking through the portholes of the submersible ...

NASA image: Volcanoes in Guatemala

6 hours ago

This photo of volcanoes in Guatemala was taken from NASA's C-20A aircraft during a four-week Earth science radar imaging mission deployment over Central and South America. The conical volcano in the center ...

NASA sees last vestiges of Tropical Depression Jack

Apr 23, 2014

Tropical Cyclone Jack had weakened to a tropical depression when NASA and JAXA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed above on April 22, 2014 at 1120 UTC/7:20 a.m. EDT.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

prathvi
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012
its possible that there are living organisms

More news stories

How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for us. Looking through the portholes of the submersible ...

Sea floor conditions mimicked for drilling platforms

Mobile jack-up drilling platforms used in the oil and gas industry are at risk of rejection before installation due to their use in harsher environments and deeper waters—but University of WA scientists ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...