Antarctic lake-drilling team discovers Life under ice. After weeks of intense field work, scientists confirm microbes beneath Antarctic glaciers, in Lake Whillans trapped under the frozen continent’s ice sheet.
Above: Drillers found a microbial ecosystem hiding under 800 meters of ice, at the end of this 50-centimetre-wide bore hole.
John Priscu the leader of the team, said:
“Lake Whillans definitely harbors life. It appears that there lies a large wetland ecosystem under Antarctica’s ice sheet, with an active microbiology.
What we are all dying to find out now is, of course, ‘who’s there’ and ‘what’s their life style’.”
The team put a camera down the borehole to make sure that the borehole was wide enough for sampling instruments to be deployed and returned safely. It was, and over the next few days, the scientists collected some 30 litres of liquid lake water and eight sediment cores from the lake’s bottom, each 60 centimeters long.
What precious stuff they had retrieved soon became clear under the on-site microscope. Both water and sediment contained an array of microbes that did not need sunlight to survive. The scientists counted about 1,000 bacteria per millilitre of lake water — roughly one-tenth the abundance of microbes in the oceans. In Petri dishes, the bacteria show a ‘really good growth rate’.