Antarctic scientists are going to drill one of the most isolated lakes on Earth

At a depth of 1200 meters under the Antarctic ice is lake Mercer, a sub-glacial reservoir formed thousands of years ago, and long ago separated from the rest of the world. A project to study the lake and its mysterious contents must begin at the end of this month. The so-called Subglacial Lakes Antarctic Scientific Access, or SALSA, is a project aimed at finding new information about subglacial lakes of Antarctica. It is known that there are at least 400 of these.

Over the next two months, scientists SALSA will explore one of the largest subglacial lakes in West Antarctica — lake Mercer. For this, scientists have to drill to a depth of 1200 meters of ice using a 60-cm corer with hot water. In addition to extracting samples of water and mud, scientists also deployed a remotely operated vehicle — a first for the subglacial lake.

Isolated world beneath the ice

Team SALSA hopes to learn more about cold extraterrestrial environments: the fact, as in ice-covered reservoirs could receive the hot water; how could life survive in such harsh conditions; environmental factors in which formed these lakes; changes the state of the Antarctic ice sheet. It is important to note that this mission could provide a theoretical basis for future expeditions to the ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn, which could Harbor life.

Lake Mercer was first detected via satellite more than ten years ago, but never investigated by people. The subglacial lake has a size of about 160 square kilometers. However, the depth is small — 10-15 meters. The water in the lake is hovering around the freezing point, but never hardens because of the huge pressure exerted on it by the pile of ice. Lake Mercer, likely to have been formed about 10,000 years ago.

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