Mysterious “Hidden World” Discovered Under Antarctica

Mystery

| LAST UPDATE 06/13/2022

By Stanley Wickens
Antarctica mysterious hidden world
Pierre Lani via Getty Images

It seems that with every new discovery we make about the world we live in, we become more certain that there's so much more to learn. The latest discovery to prove this point is an underground river beneath Antarctica that has revealed a never-before-seen ecosystem...

Hundreds of kilometers off the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf - an ice shelf attached to the continent's eastern coast - a team of scientists from New Zealand discovered the ecosystem around 500 meters (about 1640 feet) below the ice. What they found at the site was mesmerizing - a "hidden world" in a cathedral-like cavern that was filled with large groups of shrimp-like creatures. Until now, this ecosystem had remained a secret. But now, researchers from universities in Wellington, Auckland, and Otago, the National Institute of Water and Atmospherics (Niwa), and Geological and Nuclear Sciences are working hard to study the region. Their goal is to investigate what impact the estuary could have on the ice shelf meting due to climate change. 

Antarctica hidden ecosystem discovery
Leamus via Getty Images
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But they soon realized their mission was a little more complicated than they'd assumed when their cameras were crowded with amphipods, a type of crustacean. "We thought something was wrong with the camera, but when the focus improved, we noticed a swarm of arthropods around 5mm in size," explained Craig Stevens from the National Institute of Water and Atmospherics in New Zealand, the institute conducting the research. "We've done experiments in other parts of the ice shelf and thought we had a handle on things, but this time big surprises were thrown up."

"We were jumping up and down because having all those animals swimming around our equipment means that there's clearly an important ecosystem there," Stevens added. Huw Horgan, the lead researcher working on the study, from Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, was the first person to notice the estuary. Although researchers have known about a hidden network of lakes and rivers beneath the Antarctic ice sheets, Horgan explains that these mysterious environments have yet to be studied directly. "Getting to observe and sample this river was like being the first to enter a hidden world," he added. But what else awaits these scientists in the icy waters of Antarctica? Guess we'll have to wait and see. Stay tuned...

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