Under the ice of the fifth largest continent of the Earth, for example, more than 400 lakes have been discovered, but scientists have reached only four of them. It is noteworthy that Russian scientists were the first to get to the lakes near Antarctica – in 2012, samples of water from Lake Vostok were obtained.
They found three bacteria that are specific to this reservoir. Now microbiologists and genetics do not lose hope of discovering other life forms in the under-ice Antarctic lake that were previously unknown to science. Like, for example, WPS-2 and AD3 bacteria – they live in soil with other organisms and do not need either solar or geothermal energy. With a very scarce supply of nutrients, they literally switched to an “air diet”, which was a baffling discovery for scientists.
But the ice finds in Antarctica are not limited only to lakes. Not so long ago, scientists discovered under the Thwaites glacier a giant cavity with an area of about 40 square kilometers and a height of about 300 meters, which was formed when about 14 billion tons of ice melted.
For professionals, this is an alarming signal for several reasons. Firstly, most of this ice has melted over the past three years. Secondly, such cavities significantly reduce the strength of icebergs. And this is fraught with the acceleration of their destruction and rising sea levels.
However, not all cavities under the ice are formed due to melting ice. Researchers have also found craters, which, on the contrary, are filled with water, creating new ice lakes. Their distinguishing feature is only that they are not isolated from the oceans, and therefore can hardly be the habitat of previously unknown forms of life and, from the point of view of discoveries, are not so interesting for researchers.
In addition to lakes and cavities, there are active volcanoes in Antarctica (a total of 91 volcanoes were found on the continent) – for example, Mount Erebus on Ross Island, which, due to its volcanic activity, has created a fairly developed network of underwater caves. In these “recesses” melted in ice by volcanic steam, scientists discovered several DNA sequences that did not correspond to any known organisms.
This means that in these caves species of plants or animals still unknown to science, may exist. Moreover, researchers are very optimistic and do not exclude the possibility of finding even unique ecosystems, and not just individual organisms.
Another mystery that the continent threw to scientists is the bizzare ice tremors that shake Antarctica every night. However, the secret was not kept for long. Having studied the unusual phenomenon, the researchers came to the conclusion that the ice surface is capable of creating small earthquakes, or rather, even ice quakes. The shocks recorded by seismographs allowed scientists to determine how the melting of the ice and the surface movements caused by it manifest themselves in this way.
It must be said that the above discoveries are only a small part of what scientists have learned about Antarctica in recent years. And one can only guess how many more secrets this mysterious continent keeps under its ice.