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A huge lake buried thousands of feet underneath Antarctica’s ice is about to yield its secrets, after scientists drilled through the ice to reach it.
After two days of drilling using a high-pressure hot water drill, the scientists broke through on Sunday – finding a lake ‘twice the size of Manhattan’.
The scientists will lower a robotic vehicle into the lake to sample its temperature and cleanliness – and to look for microbial life.
‘We don’t know what we’ll find,’ said John Priscu, chief scientist for Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA).
‘We’re just learning, it’s only the second time that this has been done.’
Al Gagnon (left) and SALSA Marine Techs Michael Tepper-Rasmussen and Jack Greenberg (ctr and right) test the @WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) Gravity Corer that will be used to collect 10-ft and 20-ft sediment cores from Mercer Subglacial Lake. #nsfsalsa #Antarctica pic.twitter.com/L12t3Jlxfs
— Salsa Antarctica (@SalsaAntarctica) December 30, 2018
— Salsa Antarctica (@SalsaAntarctica) December 28, 2018
The Mercer Subglacial Lake was spotted in satellite imagery more than a decade ago – and is believed to be one of 400 lakes hidden beneath Antarctica.
The SALSA team wrote, ‘Part of the drilling process involves sampling the drill water to test its cleanliness.
‘The water has been tested twice thus far, and both tests showed the water was ‘as clean as filtered water can get’, in the words of SALSA PI Brent Christner,.
‘The drill water is run through filters that catch 99.9% of bacteria and particles.’