Antarctica’s past is written at the bottom of this lake

How much longer will Antarctica keep its secrets? Maybe not much longer. Indeed, researchers have just discovered, hidden under the ice, an immense lake which could help them rewrite the history of this continent which has not always been white.

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[EN VIDÉO] Antarctica: discover the magnificent book by photographer Greg Lecoeur
At the end of the austral summer, photographer Greg Lecoeur, free diver Guillaume Nery and cameraman Florian Fisher boarded a small sailboat bound for the white continent. Their goal was to dive into the icy waters of the most hostile ecosystem on the planet and bear witness to its beauty and fragility. © Greg Lecoeur

L’Antarctic hasn’t always been the huge, icy white continent we know today. Scientists know this. But they continue to search for clues that might help them understand the details of his story. A University of Texas at Austin team (United States) has just discovered, under the largest ice cap in the worlda gigantic lake that may well reveal some of Antarctica’s best-kept secrets.

How did they get there? After three years of systematic surveys with a rader capable of penetrating the ice. And with sensors which measure minute changes in gravity and Earth’s magnetic field. Because unlike ice, water reflects radar like a mirror. Gravity and magnetic data shed light on the region’s underlying geology and water and sediment depth.

The lake — nearly 50 kilometers long, 15 kilometers wide and 200 meters deep — was named snow eagle — like one of the planes that was used to discover it. It lies somewhere under more than three kilometers of East Antarctic ice in a canyon nearly two kilometers deep, on what is known as Princess Elizabeth Land, discovered in 1931, a few hundred kilometers from the coast.

Secrets buried in the sediment

And it is precisely this proximity to the coast that makes this lake even more interesting to eyes researchers. They believe it could be hiding crucial information about how the East Antarctic Ice Sheet began to form. On the role played by antarctic circumpolar currentthis ring of cold water that surrounds the continent and that scientists believe is responsible for the cold that reigns there.

The researchers report that at the bottom of the lake await them some 300 meters of sediment which could include river sediments older than the ice sheet itself. Thus, they hope to obtain valuable information on the history of Antarctica by drilling the region. On its history, but also on its future in the context of global warming that we are experiencing today.

“This lake is likely to have kept a record of the whole history of the ice sheet of theEast Antarctica. From its birth, more than 34 million years ago. As well as its growth and evolution through glacial cycles since thenenthuses Don Blankenship, a researcher at the University of Texas, in a communicated. Our observations already suggest that the ice sheet changed significantly around 10,000 years ago, although we don’t know why.” To be continued…

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