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U.S. Team Collects Clean Samples from Buried Antarctic Lake

Jan 29, 2013 04:18 AM EST
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A U.S.-based team has successfully retrieved the first clean whole samples from subglacial Lake Whillans, which is buried beneath over 2,000 feet (800m) of Antarctic ice.

Lake Whillans is located in the west of Antarctica, on the southeastern edge of the Ross Sea. It is less of a lake and more of a dense system of streams, almost like a delta covering about 35 miles. The water is quite shallow and it is just a few feet deep, reports BBC.

The American team reached the subglacial lake from McMurdo Station two weeks ago and began hot-water drilling last week, in a bid to collect water samples and analyze them for the presence of life.

The team completed drilling through 800 meters of Antarctic ice on Monday and directly sampled the waters and sediments of the subglacial lake.

Scientists believe that the buried Antarctic lakes that have been isolated for millions of years could harbor microbial life even if sunlight does not penetrate to those depths. To search for life and to study the past climatic conditions of Antarctica, research groups from various countries have been working on retrieving samples from ancient lakes.

The U.S. team is the second research group to have successfully retrieved samples from a buried lake. A Russian team announced few weeks ago that they have taken clean samples from Lake Vostok, which is buried more than two miles below the Antarctic ice. They are yet to report any discoveries.

However, the third research group from Britain called off their mission to drill Antarctic Lake Ellsworth after facing technical difficulties, and returned home in December.

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