First Intact Samples Collected From An Antarctic Subglacial Lake

wissard camp

Source: WISSARD Image of the Day.

The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) field team drilled through 800 m of ice and intersected Subglacial Lake Whillans on 28 January 2013 at 0500 h. The team sampled mud and water from the floor of the subglacial lake, making this the first time that clean whole samples have been recovered from an Antarctic subglacial lake. Water analyses will be made for dissolved minerals and living cells. Sediment cores taken from the lake bed should provide scientists with data on the lake’s formation history and microbial inhabitants.

The WISSARD project team is also looking at ice dynamics. Live Science posted a quote from Ross Powell of the University of Northern Illinois, one of WISSARD’s 13 principal investigators regarding ice dynamics.  “Lake Whillans is just one of a few hundred interconnected lakes,” said Powell, “and radar observations have revealed that it fills and drains in a five-to-10-year cycle. We want to find out what causes these cycles. And knowing more about ice dynamics is important to better understand the effects global warming might have on the Antarctic continent. Thanks to WISSARD, we will be able for the first time to use real field data as input in our glacialogical models.”

DISCOVER Magazine has a science journalist, Douglas Fox, in Antarctica on assignment as the WISSARD Embedded Journalist. Read more of his experience with the project team at: DISCOVER.