Here’s your chance to take a trip down a massive one-kilometer-long borehole in Antarctica and see firsthand what scientists found as they explored a massive underground lake for the first time ever.
A few weeks ago, to be precise on December 26, 2018, a group of scientists belonging to the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access project, aka SALSA drilled into a massive ice sheet in Antarctica, hoping to reach a previously-unexplored subglacial lake dubbed as Lake Mercer.
Their mission was a success and marked the first-time scientists explored the mysterious pool of water.
Lake Mercer is twice the size of Manhattan, and scientists have begun reporting everything they’ve found down there.
Laker Mercer measures more than sixty square kilometers.
To reach the mysterious underground lake, scientists drilled through the ice for around 48 hours.
“After four days of troubleshooting components that sustained wear and tear from sitting through two winters on the ice, the Drill Team began drilling the main borehole on the evening of December 23 and reached the lake faster than expected at 10.30pm on December 26 with a borehole depth of 1084 meters,” a statement by SALSA read.
As explained by SALSA, they discovered not only a surprising number of bacteria, but also the remains of small animals called Tardigrades, also known as Water Bears.
Despite the fact that the existence of the subglacial lake was known some ten years ago (thanks to satellite images) never has anyone attempted to drill through the ice sheet and explore it.
But as curious as humans are, there’s probably nothing we can’t do when there’s something we really want to achieve.
Lake Mercer is the second subglacial lake scientists successfully explored in Antarctica.
“Follow us through the SALSA borehole as we travel about 1100 meters / 3500 feet down through the Antarctic Ice Sheet and into Mercer Subglacial Lake!” scientists from the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access project, aka SALSA, wrote on their Instagram account, posting the video they recorded.
“The UV collar at the top of the borehole lights up, irradiating any sources of contamination. Once at the lake, we can see the transition between the lake water and the bottom of the ice sheet.”
Discovering Tardigrades and the remains of crustaceans come as surprise as scientists say the discovery is not something they were able to foresee.
David Harwood, a micropaleontologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln explained that “discovering the animals was fully unexpected.”
But now that they know that life existed in the lake, they say that it is very probable that there still may be living organisms there now.
To see if they are right about that, they will explore the lake with a remotely operated vehicle.