Earlier this month, scientists bored through nearly 740 meters of ice at a point where the Whillans Ice Stream oozes off the coastline of West Antarctica to feed into the Ross Ice Shelf, a slab of glacial ice the size of Texas that floats on the Ross Sea. "This season we accessed another critical polar environment, which has never been directly sampled by scientists before: the grounding zone of the Antarctic ice sheet," said Slawek Tulaczyk, chief scientist on the project, in a news release.
The scientists lowered a camera-equipped vehicle below the ice. This robot detected a variety of fish and invertebrates living in an estuary deep beneath the Antarctic ice. This could pave the way for further insights into how creatures survive and thrive in this brutally cold and dark environment."This is the first time that Deep-SCINI ROV has been used in the field and it passed this test with flying colors," said Frank Rack, principal investigator for the project. "Collecting video of fish living under the ice shelf in this extremely hostile environment far from the front of the ice shelf."
The findings also reveal some interesting clues about how climate change might affect Antarctic ice. They found a layer of pebbles strewn on the bottom of a seawater cavity; these pebbles appear to have dropped from the ice as it melted and indicate a fairly recent change in the environment.
The findings show scientists a bit more about this icy world, and may help with further predictions of how warmer temperatures will impact this ecosystem.
You can find out more about the drilling project online.