Scientists Set To Explore Mystery Ecosystem Under Antarctic Iceberg

Vast Antarctic Iceberg Hides Mysterious Ancient Ecosystem

The global team, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), will set out for their base on the Falkland Islands off the coast of Argentina on February 14.

Looking out from the sea ice to iceberg A68, around November 2017, just months after the berg calved from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf in July. These undiscovered "alien" creatures are weird and wonderful and have been buried under ice for so long that scientists have never before had the opportunity to study them up close. While the amphipods colonized waters beneath the Ross Ice Shelf in western Antarctica, icefish developed natural antifreeze in their blood and body fluids.

The team, consists of researchers from nine research institutes, will set sail from Stanley in the Falkland Islands on February 21 to spend three weeks on board the BAS research ship RRS James Clark Ross.

"Larsen C is a long way south and there's lots of sea ice in the area, but this is important science, so we will try our best to get the team where they need to be", said Professor David Vaughan, Science Director at BAS.

"We might have species we don't know at all that have adapted to living in a low-food environment".

"We don't know what the actual baseline community is under and ice shelf", mission lead Katrin Linse told RT.com.

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The scientists are concerned that as the year progresses and sunlight hits the water it will be colonised by phytoplankton - tiny creatures that use sunlight for sustenance.

Linse and colleagues will collect microbes, seafloor animals, plankton, as well as sediments and water samples to study the area once hidden under the ice shelf. The exposed marine ecosystem, though recently discovered, was tucked in beneath the ice shelf for more than 100,000 years.

Video cameras and a special underwater sledge will provide a picture of what life is like under the ice shelf, and will also allow for the tracking of any changes to the ecosystem over time, including marine mammals and birds that might have moved into the area. This research saw rare squid, starfish, and more that probably won't survive when the waters change with their new exposure to surface light and different species that may settle into the new marine real estate.

This will enable them to predict the future stability of the Antarctic region under climate change.

"The calving of A68 (the official name of the iceberg) offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate-sensitive region".

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