Scientists Exploring Underwater Ecosystem Under the Ice Shelf - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A huge piece, roughly the size of Delaware, has broken off Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf last summer, and scientists are beginning to explore it now. The broken piece exposed an area of the sea that hasn’t seen the light of day in more than 120,000 years, according to scientists, which means there could be a huge variety of species the world has never seen lurking beneath the water’s surface.

The area spans about 2,250 square miles, according to the British Antarctic Survey, the organization leading the exploration mission. The scientists want to document the ecosystem beneath the surface before the sun begins to change conditions in the water.

When a huge chunk of an iceberg breaks off, it’s called calving. It happens often enough; in fact, in 1995 and 2006, large pieces of the shelf broke off – but scientists didn’t find much by way of life under the waves on either of those occasions. However, the scientists didn’t make it out to explore those regions for years; they didn’t make it within a few months.

The team plans to collect samples of life, including animals, microbes and plankton, once they arrive in the area. Some truly strange creatures have been found in the freezing waters of the Arctic, and scientists hope to discover more like the Eulagisca gigantean, which has been described as “the Christmas tree ornament from Hell.

What Do You Think They’ll Find?

Are you as excited as I am that scientists are going to explore an area of Earth that hasn’t seen daylight in more than 120,000 years? What do you think they’ll find? What’s your favorite odd creature that’s been discovered in modern times? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them and join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

Carlos Gamino