The Race for Antarctica's Lost Lakes

American, British and Russian exploration teams are racing to make first contact with long-lost lakes deep beneath Antarctica's ice in search of new life forms and climate change data.

What's the Latest Development?


American, British and Russian research teams are in three-way race to make first contact with long-lost lakes beneath Antarctica's icy surface. In search of new life forms that would have evolved in isolation, as well as climate change data, the teams will drill through ice sheets thousands of yards thick before lowering probes to collect samples of water and sediment. They will have to work quickly. Just 24 hours after drilling, water will rise through the hole and freeze again, as though no drilling had occurred at all. 

What's the Big Idea?

Besides seeking new life forms, the explorers will collect data on the west Antarctic ice sheet. Glaciers in the ice sheet have been disappearing for years due to warming caused by global climate change. "If the sheet collapses, sea levels will rise at least 3 meters, and possibly as much as 5 meters, swamping low-lying areas worldwide." Sediments which the British team aim to collect should tell them when the ice sheet last collapsed. The longer ago it happened, the better; the more resilient the ice sheet, the less likely it is to collapse in the future. 

Related Articles

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less

Giving octopuses ecstasy reveals surprising link to humans

A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.

Image: damn_unique via Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
  • Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
  • Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
Keep reading Show less