By: Steve Dellar | 09-09-2017 | News
Photo credit: Jocrebbin | Dreamstime

Warm Oasis Found Beneath Antarctica’s Ice

The warming of the sea waters in combination with an active volcano underneath the Antarctic ice shelf has led to a new discovery.

A team of US researchers declared to the scientific community that they have found a warm oasis beneath the ice layers of Antarctica which can now be accessed. Though temperatures on the ice layers are still inhabitable, the oasis that was discovered is close enough to an active volcano to host life.

There is hope that a total new array of plants and animals will be found.

The lead researcher of the team, Mr Ceridwen Fraser, said that: “You could wear a T-shirt in there and be pretty comfortable. There’s light near the cave mouths, and light filters deeper into some caves where the overlying ice is thin.”

The caves are located just beneath Mount Erebus, an active volcano on the Antarctic plateau, which has been blowing steam through passages for many years now, causing the caves to become accessible.

The initial study of the caves evolved into soil analysis as more layers were discovered. The Australian National University, which was the lead scientific group organizing the search, stated that traces of algae and mosses DNA which lived in the underground oasis had been discovered, but more testing was needed.

The research study was published in the scientific journal Polar Biology. Given that there are some 15 volcanoes in Antarctica which are currently active the researchers are hopeful that more life can be found.

Charles Lee, from the University of Waikato in New Zealand, was hopeful new string of undiscovered species could be found: “We don’t yet know just how many cave systems exist around Antarctica’s volcanoes, or how interconnected these subglacial environments might be.”

As an ice shelf the size of a US state has broken off the Antarctic plateau as recently as July of this year, this also means that new research areas are opening up for scientists working in the region. Surely we will hear more about this soon.


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