Searching for Life in Lake Ellsworth, and Dead Whales
This podcast from the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC) Planet Earth Online collection looks at why scientists are planning on drilling three kilometres beneath the Antarctic ice sheet in one of the most ambitious exploration projects ever undertaken; and how worms that feed on dead whale bones at the bottom of the ocean may be distorting the whale fossil record.
Since the 1970s, scientists have discovered over 150 lakes locked underneath Antarctica's vast ice sheets. One of them, Lake Ellsworth, lies beneath over three kilometres of ice. Scientists think it has been isolated from the surface for hundreds of thousands of years, which raises the tantalising possibility that it may harbour as-yet undiscovered forms of life.
In 2009, an international team was given the go-ahead to explore this ancient lake, in a project called Subglacial Lake Ellsworth. In the podcast, Richard Hollingham goes to Cambridge to meet some of the researchers involved to find out just how technically challenging the task is.
Finally there is a report from researcher Nick Higgs, from the University of Leeds, who is on a ship in the Pacific Ocean searching for dead whales at the bottom of the ocean.
A transcript of the recording is provided to assist those who find text-based content more accessible than audio.
This podcast is dated 26 July 2011.
NERC is a part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) partnership of research councils.
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