Earlier this year, NASA successfully bored a 2,600-foot hole through an Antarctic glacier’s ice in their quest to reach its sub-glacial lake — a feat that took three days in and of itself. Next, they sent a camera down and have recently released the first footage of what the lake below the glacier looks like.
What you’re looking at, as NASA Jet Propulsion Lab researcher Alberto Behar explained in the video, is a very fine sediment that only comes with the movement of a glacier over rocks. Behar said when the camera went down, they were surprised because the lake was much shallower than they expected — 1.6 meters instead of 10 meters.
The device used to explore the hole and the opening into Lake Whillans below is unique in and of itself. Micro-Submersible Lake Exploration Device. NASA describes the device, developed by the U.S. team of the international Whillans Ice Stream Sub-glacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project, as “instrument was a small robotic sub about the size and shape of a baseball bat.”
“This is the first instrument ever to explore a sub-glacial lake outside of a borehole,” Behar said in a statement. “It’s able to take us places that are inaccessible by any other instruments in existence.”
Watch this video about the expedition – what it took get get there, to drill and to capture the footage:
From water samples collected by the team, they identified microbial life in the lake water. NASA stated that such a discovery could “important implications for the search for life elsewhere in the universe.”
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