Scientists in the Antarctic reached Mercer Subglacial Lake on Dec. 26.
Scientists in the Antarctic we have a unique gift for the holidays: the access to a mysterious buried under more than 3,500 meters of ice.
It took about two days of drilling to reach Mercer Subglacial Lake on Dec. 26, the Subglacial Lakes in Antarctica Scientific Access (SALSA) said in a blog post.
A team of researchers — including 45 scientists, drillers and other employees with the organization were able to send a tool down a hole in the next day, capturing rare images of the body of water, which is twice the size of Manhattan,” according to the journal Nature. They will also lower a remotely operated vehicle down to capture more footage and more extensive measurements.
The group is planning to study in depth, the temperature and the cleanliness of the lake in the next few days.
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“We don’t know what we will find,” John Priscu, chief scientist for SALSA, told environmental news site Earther Monday. “We are still learning, it is only the second time that this happened.”
The SALSA team flew Mercer Subglacial Lake on Dec. 19 and started drilling days later, on Dec. 23.
“A part of the drilling process includes the sampling of the drill water testing of the purity. The water is tested two times so far, and both tests showed the water was ‘clean, filtered water can get’, in the words of the SALSA PI Brent Christner,” SALSA explained. “The drill water is carried out by means of filters that capture 99.9% of bacteria and particles.”
The organization has scheduled at least eight days dedicated to the sampling of water and sediment, a previous blog post states.
Priscu told Earther researchers hope to gain more information about the life that exists thousands of meters beneath the ice is clear it will take years for all of the samples they collect.
“We are knee-deep right [now], the sampling of the deepest standing water body that humans have ever approached under Antarctica,” Matt Siegfried, a glaciologist and SALSA member, told Earther. “[So] it will take some time to process what the ‘most’ exciting part [is].”
Mercer Subglacial Lake was first discovered by satellite more than a decade ago, according to the Nature. There are reportedly about 400 lakes hidden under Antarctica’s ice caps.