Researchers drilled into an Antarctic ice shelf to take samples of ice sediments. Instead, they found living creatures that weren’t supposed to be there.
In the middle of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf – five hours’ flight from the nearest Antarctic station – nothing comes easy. Geologist James Smith of the British Antarctic Survey endured the hardships of being in Antarctica to study the history of the floating shelf, and he needed sediments on the seafloor beneath a nearly kilometer-long hummock.
To reach it, Smith and his colleagues had to melt 20 tons of snow and get 20,000 liters of hot water, which they then pumped through a pipe lowered into a well. It took them 20 hours to melt the ice and finally punch a hole. Then they lowered the sludge collection tool along with a GoPro camera. But the collector came back empty. They tried again, but again without success.
Later that night in his tent, Smith reviewed the footage and discovered something unusual: life. To confirm the find, Smith enlisted a colleague, Hugh Griffiths of the British Antarctic Survey.
The rock, accidentally discovered by Smith, is hundreds of meters away from daylight and a place that could be a source of food. Nevertheless, these microscopic organisms live there simply sitting on a piece of rock.
The study is published in Frontiers in Marine Science.