‘Hidden World’ Discovered Under Antarctic Ice

Screenshot/Researchers discovered swarms of shrimplike amphipods while they were exploring an underground Antarctic river. (Image credit: NIWA/Craig Stevens)

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Scientists uncovered a secret subterranean habitat beneath the Larsen Ice Shelf in early June.

Researchers for the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) identified a subsurface river beneath the ice shelf, and decided to drill down 1,640 feet to see what was down there, according to a statement issued on their official website.  “It looked dramatic from the satellite imagery, but when you get there and you’re looking around you’re thinking: ‘Where’s the groove?’ But then we find this tiny, gentle slope and guessed we’d got the right spot,” the researchers wrote.

When the team broke through the ice, they believed their equipment had malfunctioned because of what they found, Live Science reported. The “hidden world” revealed hundreds of tiny shrimplike creatures in a dark and jagged cavern, the outlet continued.

“Having all those animals swimming around our camera means there’s clearly an important ecosystem process happening there,” NIWA physical oceanographer Craig Stevens said in the statement, adding that the team was “jumping up and down for joy” at the discovery. (RELATED: ‘Frozen In Time’: Scientists Make Huge 2,100-Year-Old Discovery In Israel)

Prior to this discovery, it wasn’t known if any of the rivers, lakes, and estuaries beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves harbored life, Live Science noted. “Getting to observe and sample this river was like being the first to enter a hidden world,” glaciologist and lead researcher Huw Horgan told the Guardian.