A Hidden Marine Ecosystem Trapped Under Antarctic Ice for 120,000 Years

By: | February 26th, 2018

Marine Ecosystem

Image courtesy of NASA/John Sonntag

Scientists are about to explore a hidden world trapped for thousands of years under an ice shelf that is several hundred meters thick.

The marine ecosystem in the Antarctic has been hidden for around 120,000 years. No one really knew anything about it until a huge iceberg broke free in July of last year.

The iceberg, which is four times the size of London, broke away from the Larsen Ice Shelf in July 2017, exposing a marine world under the dark and freezing water, cut off from any light till now.

Image courtesy NASA

The team plans to leave their base in the Falkland Islands later this month to spend three weeks aboard a research vessel, the RRS James Clark Ross. The ship will require satellite monitoring in order to navigate its way through the sea ice to the remote destination.

Katrin Linse, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who is leading the mission, said, “It’s important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize.”

As new organisms enter the ecosystem, their existence can trigger a cascading effect on the food web and cause fundamental changes to the type of creatures found in the previously untouched ecosystem.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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