Hidden World Discovered Buried Beneath Antarctica
As some of you may know, the Antarctic continent isn’t just ice all the way through. Although its surface is around 98 percent covered in frozen water, the remaining 2 percent gives a little hint as to what may lie below. Back in the Cretaceous period, when the non-avian dinosaurs still ruled the world, Antarctica was covered in dense, warm forests, built on a solid bedrock full of valleys, river, canyons, mountains, and lakes.
Three new studies focusing on the western subglacial Lake Whillans collectively reveal it to be a complex place; a wetland-like environment with both fresh and salty water, with rivers flowing from it across huge stretches of the southern continent. Beneath 800 meters (2,600 feet) of thick ice lies a truly unique world isolated from the surface by up to 1 million years – one whose actual liquid lake could be surprisingly young.
“This subglacial environment is analogous to a non-vegetated wetland within a terrestrial coastal plain,” the authors of one of the studies, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters (EPSL), write. “The lacustrine (lake) history of the site is short, probably on the order of decades.”