Ice-covered antarctic lake may harbor unknown life

below the ice, which has been cut off from the outside world for hundreds of thousands of years, may have a unique chemical composition. There may also be an active tectonic rift below the lake, which may be warming its waters. Or sediments at the lake bottom may contain a record of ancient climate conditions.

Robin E. Bell, a geophysicist and a co-editor of the report, says it "illustrates the emerging importance of the lake for understanding the processes which may have triggered the evolutionary explosion on earth and perhaps on other planets as well as deciphering the geologic history of Antarctica."

NSF's Office of Polar Programs, through the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the continent. NSF will send a delegation of U.S. scientists to represent the consensus of opinion contained in the report at a meeting of the international Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), scheduled for September in Cambridge, England.

At that meeting, scientists will discuss the scientific objectives of sub-glacial lake exploration and will examine the logistical and engineering requirements for exploring the lake.

The SCAR meeting also will assess the risk of contamination posed by various exploration techniques and will consider a schedule for accomplishing the scientific goal of exploring the lake.


Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation

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