World News

US Scientists Find Life Under Antarctic Ice

TYPE: CN ))




A team of U.S. researchers says it has found the first evidence of bacteria living in a cold, dark, fresh-water lake deep under the ice sheet in west Antarctica. The find could provide important insights into a vast ecosystem of microscopic life believed to be thriving in sub-glacial Antarctic lakes. It could also yield new clues to how life might survive in extreme environments on other planets and moons throughout the universe.

The U.S. team spent weeks drilling through about 1000 meters of ice to reach the 60-square kilometer, 2 meter-deep Lake Whillans. It's one of hundreds of freshwater lakes sandwiched between Antarctica's land surface and the massive ice sheet that covers it.

The samples retrieved from Lake Whillans, using a drilling system designed to prevent microbial contamination of the lake, showed cell structures and chemical evidence of DNA. But the scientists say more tests will be needed to confirm these results, once they have returned to the United States.



The water in some of these lakes has been isolated from the rest of the planet for millions of years, and scientists have been excited by the opportunity to study the water and lake-bottom sediment for signs of life.

Lake Whillans is different than many other sub-glacial lakes in that scientists believe its waters have been regularly mingling with meltwater from the overlying ice. But the U.S. researchers hopes the Lake Whillans bacteria can shed light on how so-called extremophile organisms survive without light or air, and how such microbes might also be altering the chemistry of the ice itself.

Two other drilling teams, one from Britain and the other from Russia, have also been drilling down to lakes at other locations on the icy Antarctic continent. The British team was unsuccessful in its quest to penetrate Lake Ellsworth, but one year ago Russian scientists successfully drilled through 3 kilometers of ice to reach Lake Vostok, thousands of kilometers away on the Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet. Samples the Russians took earlier this year from the ancient frozen lake have yet to be analyzed.

The U.S. scientific project, called WISSARD, for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling, is supported by $10 million from the National Science Foundation and other grants.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs