Scientists accidentally found life under 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica. ‘Never in a million years’ would they have expected it, the lead scientist said.

Animals found under Ice
An annotated still of a video in which scientists saw stationary animals under ice in Antarctica. The creatures appear similar to sponges.

  • Scientists stumbled upon life under 3,000 feet of ice in Antarctica.
  • They found two types of unidentified animals, where they had thought nothing could live.
  • Their next step is finding a way to get close enough to identify the creatures. 
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Scientist have found life under 3,000 feet under of ice in Antarctica, challenging their assumption that nothing could live in such conditions.

The previous theory was that life couldn’t exist in such extremity: no food, freezing temperatures, and complete darkness.

The creatures were found attached to a boulder in the frigid seas under the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf. Experts from the British Antarctica Survey drilled through 2,860 feet of ice, then another 1,549 feet of water to make the discovery.

“The area underneath these ice shelves is probably one of the least-known habitats on Earth”, said Dr. Huw Griffith, one of the scientists who made the discovery, in a Twitter video. 

“We didn’t think that these kinds of animals, like sponges, would be found there.”

The Filchner-Ronne ice shelf is a massive floating ice sheet which stretches out from the Antarctic continent.

It spans more than 579,000 square miles, but only the equivalent of the surface of a tennis court has been explored. 

Enormous icebergs occasionally break off from these ice shelves and drift away. In December 2020, one of these icebergs threatened to crash into a breeding ground for sealions and penguins

Filchner Ronne Ice Shelf, Antartica
An annotated satellite image of the Filchner-Ronne Ice shelf is the second biggest ice Shelf in Antarctica.

ice sheets
The giant ice sheets is the second largest ice sheet in Antarctica

The scientists didn’t set out looking for life.

They were drilling through the ice sheet to collect samples from the sea floor. Instead, their camera hit a boulder. When they reviewed the camera’s footage, it revealed this discovery. 

“Never in a million years would we have thought about looking for this kind of life, because we didn’t think it would be there,” Griffiths told The Guardian.

The video reveals two types of unidentified animals, shown here in a video from the British Antarctic Survey. The animals in red seem to have long stalks, whereas another type of animal, highlighted in white, looks more like a round sponge-like animal. 

annotated video footage, new discovery animals, Antarctica
An annotated still of the footage which captured animals under the ice in Antarctica.

Other studies had looked at life under ice sheets. A few mobile animals, such as fish, worms, jellyfish or krill, could be found in that habitat.

But it was thought that the deeper and the furthest away from a light source the habitat stretched, the less likely it would be that life could be found.

Read more: Disney is shutting down the animation studio behind the ‘Ice Age’ movies. Some staffers say they’re shocked at the lack of communication and feel betrayed that its final movie won’t be released.

This is the first time that animals which are bound to a surface have been found there. The scientist say these animals are about 160 miles from the the open sea.

“Our discovery raises so many more questions than it answers, such as how did they get there? What are they eating? How long have they been there?” Griffith said in a press release. 

The scientists said their next step is to understand whether these are new species.

“To answer our questions we will have to find a way of getting up close with these animals and their environment … 260 km [160 miles] away from the ships where our labs are”, Griffith said. 

Life in research stations in Antarctica is not easy feat, as Insider’s Monica Humpfries reported

They are so remote that the first case of COVID-19 on the continent was only reported in December, 2020.  

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An iceberg the size of Delaware that was heading straight for a penguin colony island has broken into two pieces

south georgia island
The iceberg (L) is headed for South Georgia Island, which is home to millions of penguins.

  • A massive iceberg bound for South Georgia Island, which is populated by millions of penguins, has broken into two pieces, scientists tracking its journey said on Friday. 
  • Strong underwater currents caused the iceberg, dubbed A68a, to pivot nearly 180 degrees before splitting apart. It was only 31 miles away from the shores of the island.
  • The iceberg, which was the size of Delaware, threatened to cut off vital ocean access for the island’s penguin and seal population.
  • Even though the iceberg has broken apart, scientists still worry that the larger piece could still hit the island, and endanger its inhabitants.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

An iceberg the size of Delaware, which was on course to crash into an island populated by a penguin colony, has broken into two pieces, scientists tracking its journey said on Friday.

In the last few weeks, the iceberg, dubbed A68a, came dangerously close to South Georgia Island in the south Atlantic, threatening to cut off vital ocean access for the island’s penguin and seal population. 

The island is home to millions of gentoo, macaroni, and king penguins and sea lions, nesting albatrosses, and petrels.

But as the massive iceberg approached the western shelf edge of the island this week, strong underwater currents caused it to turn nearly 180 degrees, Geraint Tarling, a biological oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey, told the Guardian.

“You can almost imagine it as a handbrake turn for the iceberg because the currents were so strong,” Tarling said, according to the Guardian.

The intense turn caused the large iceberg to break into two pieces, just 31 miles away from the island’s west coast.

The new, smaller piece, which has already been named A68D, is currently moving further away from the original. Scientists are unable to provide an estimate of its size.

The original iceberg is heading south-east, where it is expected to be picked up by another current that will carry it back around toward the island’s east coast. 

Scientists warn that South Georgia Island is not in the clear just yet and that the separate pieces could still cause an environmental disaster for its inhabitants. 

“All of those things can still happen. Nothing has changed in that regard,” Tarling said, according to the Guardian.

iceberg south georgia island collision
Iceberg A68a (left) and South Georgia Island (right) as seen by satellite on December 14, 2020.

A68a first broke off from an Antarctic ice shelf in 2017 and had been drifting ever since.

As it headed towards South Georgia Island, scientists worried that it would completely destroy the island’s underwater shelf and marine life.

There is also a possibility of the iceberg getting lodged in the island’s shoreline, where it could stay there for 10 years. That would cut access to the ocean for penguin and seal parents, who make trips into the water to fill up on fish and krill to feed their young.

South Georgia Island finds itself in a perilous location because it sits in the middle of an alley of currents that bring bigger icebergs north from Antarctica toward the Equator. 

In 2004, another iceberg, called A38-B, ran aground off the island, killing many seal pups and young penguins. 

Registering a record high temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius (69.35 degrees Fahrenheit) on February 9, the peninsula is also one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, which has scientists worried that the melting ice will eventually contribute to higher sea levels worldwide.

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