A “lost world” never seen or touched by mankind before has been discovered by a group of scientists using a hot-water drill and underwater robotic vehicles to break through the Antarctic ice shelf.
Jim Morrison once said that in this world, there are things known and unknown, and in between are the doors. But in this in this case, it would appear that it was a sheet of ice separating man from one of his last great discoveries.Yahoo! News reports that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln team cut through the ice and discovered a huge quantity of strange looking fish and other “unworldly” creatures going about their daily business in the freezing dark of this strange underwater kingdom.
It’s the first time scientists have been able to explore this exotic, alien world which exists in what they term the “grounding zone,” but to you or I, is simply the place where the ice shelf meets the sea floor.
Slawek Tulaczyk, a glaciologist from the University of California, Santa Cruz, is ecstatic about this frozen find.
“This season we accessed another critical polar environment, which has never been directly sampled by scientists before — the grounding zone of the Antarctic ice sheet.”
The discovery of this “lost world” may not seem as exciting to your average Joe as cutting through the ice and finding a fully-formed Walt Disney kingdom where Princess Elsa and Anna spend their days singing beautiful duets and building fairy-tale castles out of ice, but in the scientific community, breaking on through to the grounding zone and being able to freely wander around this brutally cold, alien environment is a very big deal.
Working against the clock, the team had a limited time frame in which to pierce the ice and gather samples before the borehole closed.
It was the debut mission for Deep-SCIN, a camera-equipped robot vehicle designed to operate thousands of feet beneath the sea and explore the dark and brutally cold climate of the “grounding zone.”
The scientists hope that Deep-SCIN’s findings will enable them to understand how creatures can survive in the “grounding zone,” which for thousands of years has lain untouched by human hand and untroubled by human curiosity… until now.
“This is the first time that Deep-SCINI ROV has been used in the field and it passed this test with flying colours. Collecting video of fish living under the ice shelf in this extremely hostile environment.”
Ross Powell, a glaciologist from Northern Illinois University, believes that preliminary findings offer interesting clues about how climate change might affect Antarctic ice, and pointed to a layer of pebbles strewn on the bottom of the seawater cavity.
“They appear to have dropped from the ice as it melted and indicate a fairly recent change in the environment. They might help measure how fast the ice is melting and the stability of the ice shelf.”
Because a weakening or collapse of the Antarctic ice shelf would allow glaciers to flow more rapidly into the ocean, raising global sea level, understanding how climate change affects this might come in really useful if we don’t want the earth we’re living on to become a “lost world” anytime soon.