Scientists rush to explore the underwater world world hidden for 120,000 years

From the sea-ice on iceberg A68, around November 2017, just a few months after the berg calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf in July. (Credit: NASA)

A huge, trillion-ton iceberg about the size of Delaware broke free of Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf in July 2017. As it moved away from the chilly born mother and a in the Weddell Sea, a vast expanse of water saw the light for the first time in 120,000 years.

This month a team of scientists will venture to the long ice-buried expanse to investigate the mysterious ecosystem that was hidden under the Antarctic ice for so long.

The newly exposed sea floor extends over an area of approximately 2,246 square miles (5,818 square kilometers), according to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who is leading the expedition. The scientists consider their trip as “urgent,” so they hope to document the system for the sunlight begins to change at least the surface layers. [Photos: Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf By the Time]

“The calving of the [iceberg] A-68 [of the Larsen C Ice Shelf] provides us with a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic change in the environment. It is important that we get there fast before the submarine environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize,” Katrin Linse, British Antarctic Survey, said in a statement.

What lies beneath?

Scientists know little about the possible alien-like lives, live under Antarctica’s ice shelf. What they do know is from other similar calving events in the past: Pieces of ice broke off the Larsen A and B shelves (located to the north of Larsen C on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1995 and 2002, respectively. Two German expeditions to the “new” exposed areas revealed scattered life. However, it took five to 12 years for the expeditions to those areas, and by that time, creatures from other areas had made their way to both spots, Live Science reported earlier.

In other icy areas around the Antarctic, a number of bizarre creatures have turned. For example, a protruding marine worm that lives in the Southern Ocean, and Live Science reported earlier as looking like a “Christmas ornament from hell,” has an extendable throat tipped with pointed teeth. And some creatures have a life under extreme conditions, including a lobster called a Lyssianasid amphipod, which was found flourishing under the Ross Ice Shelf in west Antarctica. One of the more well known Antarctic animals, the icefish has natural antifreeze in the blood and body fluids, making it survive the cold temperatures of the Earth’s cold soil.

To explore the once-hidden ecosystem, the scientists from nine research institutes — will set off from the Falkland Islands on Feb. 21. They are planning to spend three weeks on board of the BAS research ship, the RRS James Clark Ross. To navigate in the ice filled with water to the remote location, the ship will rely on the satellite data, according to the BAS.

Once they arrive, the team is planning to collect samples from the seabed, animals, bacteria, plankton and other residents) as sediments and water.

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Originally published on Live Science.

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