Tag Archives | Antarctica

Antarctic ‘Lost World’ to be Explored

Picture: "Shoggoth" by Pahko (CC)

Shades of At the Mountains of Madness!

Via BBC News:

Final checks are under way in Antarctica before the launch of a daring attempt to investigate an ancient lake beneath the ice-sheet.

Lake Ellsworth lies below ice that is at least two miles (3.2km) thick.

Its pitch-black waters have remained isolated and unseen for up to half a million years.

This will be the first attempt to extract uncontaminated samples of water and sediment from a body of water so far below the surface.

The investigation is part of a search to understand the limits of where life is possible and, despite the high pressures and lack of sunlight, it is likely that microbes will be detected.

Keep reading.

Microbes? Or Shoggoths?

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Antarctica Once Had Tropical Climate; Global Warming May Bring it Back

Via Science News:

A group of German scientists has discovered that the coast of Antarctica was once a tropical paradise:

An international team led by scientists from the Goethe University and the Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, has discovered an intense warming phase around 52 million years ago in drill cores obtained from the seafloor near Antarctica — a region that is especially important in climate research. The study published in the journal Nature shows that tropical vegetation, including palms and relatives of today’s tropical Baobab trees, was growing on the coast of Antarctica 52 million years ago. These results highlight the extreme contrast between modern and past climatic conditions on Antarctica and the extent of global warmth during periods of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

Atmospheric CO2 levels were significantly higher then, about double what they are today. The scientists say that if CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels continue at their current rate, they’ll match past conditions in a few hundred years.… Read the rest

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Mile-Deep Valley Discovered Beneath Antarctica

Via ScienceDaily:

The West Antarctic Ice Sheet has been melting faster than any other place on the continent, and scientists have finally discovered why: a mile-deep underground valley just beneath the surface.

Dr. Robert Bingham, a glaciologist and lead author of the study discussing the valley, discovered it whilst performing three months of field research with the British Antarctic Survey in 2010. The team utilized a radar system that could penetrate the ice, towed it behind a snowmobile, and drove it over a distance of 1,500 miles to gather their data. The Ferrigno Ice Stream, where the rift valley was found, hadn’t been visited since 1961.

No word on whether the valley shelters relict dinosaurs, the lost city of Thule or wandering Shoggoths…yet.

Read more at ScienceDaily.

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Antarctic ‘Lost World’ Discovered

New type of octopus found in Antarctic. Photo: Oxford Univ.

New type of octopus found in Antarctic. Photo: Oxford Univ.

Some of these creatures are pretty sci-fi! From Fox News:

A “lost world” of sea creatures was discovered near Antarctica, British scientists announced Wednesday.

New types of yeti crab, starfish and octopus were among the species found 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) below the surface of the sea, Oxford University researchers said.

The new life-forms were able to exist by feeding off chemicals from black smoke emitted by volcanic hot vents beneath the Southern Ocean, where temperatures can reach 720 degrees Fahrenheit (382 degrees Celsius).

“Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide,” according to Oxford University professor Alex Rogers, who led the research…

[continues at Fox News]

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Invasion Of The Shell Crushing Crabs

Yet another sign that things in nature just ain’t right, from Science Daily:

It’s like a scene out of a sci-fi movie — thousands, possibly millions, of king crabs are marching through icy, deep-sea waters and up the Antarctic slope.

king crab

Photo: Butterfly voyages (CC)

“They are coming from the deep, somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 feet down,” said James McClintock, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine Biology.

Shell-crushing crabs haven’t been in Antarctica, Earth’s southernmost continent, for hundreds or thousands, if not millions, of years, McClintock said. “They have trouble regulating magnesium ions in their body fluids and get kind of drunk at low temperatures.”

But something has changed, and these crustaceans are poised to move by the droves up the slope and onto the shelf that surrounds Antarctica. McClintock and other marine researchers interested in the continent are sounding alarms because the vulnerable ecosystem could be wiped out, he said…

[continues at Science Daily]

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Check Out Antarctica’s ‘Blood Falls’

Creepy and cool. Annalee Newitz writes on io9.com:
From a crack in the Taylor Glacier in Antarctica flows an iron-rich water the color of blood. Scientists believe it comes from a lake frozen beneath the glacier 2 million years ago. And it's packed with microbes. First discovered in 1911, the so-called Blood Falls also contain extremophile microbes from the trapped lake, which have evolved for millions of years without light or any outside food source. They have survived by learning to eat sulfur and iron. Blood Falls
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