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Antarctica

  1. Buried Lake Vostok May Support a Thriving Ecosystem Two Miles Beneath the Surface of Antarctica

    Scientists find signs of complex life in an Antarctic lake buried under two miles of ice. There may even be fish!

    Lake Vostok, a body of water located about two miles beneath Antarctica's icy surface, may be home to a viable ecosystem in spite of intense cold, complete darkness, lack of nutrients, and possible volcanic activity. And what's more, new evidence uncovered from samples of organic material suggest that the lake's inhabitants could include complex life forms such as arthropods, mollusks, and even fish. A group of researchers at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) concluded in a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE that "although Lake Vostok is oligotrophic," or nutrient poor, "based on the metagenomic and metatranscriptomic results presented here, it is far from sterile."

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  2. Scientists Say Martian Clay Holds Chemicals That Could Be Key to Early Life

    High levels of boron in a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica could mean that life was once possible on Mars.

    High concentrations of boron have been found in an antarctic meteorite of Martian origin by a team of researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa NASA Astrobiology Institute. That's actually a lot more exciting than it sounds since boron was a pretty key ingredient to early life. Though they didn't show evidence of life itself, the findings could further indicate that life may have once been possible on Mars.

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  3. NASA Releases New Topographical Maps of Antarctica, Apparently There’s Land Under All That Ice

    And here I always thought the ice was just... frozen to the... okay I lied, I haven't ever thought about it.

    We were all of the mind that humanity had basically done all the mapmaking it was going to do back when the King of Portugal was still footing the bill, but apparently cartography is alive and well as a field of study! Won't Buster Bluth be pleased? Well, probably not, because he'd probably hard a hard time keeping up with the scientists at the British Antarctic Survey, who have expanded upon and improved their datasets of the topographical map of Antarctica to create a brand new set of images that they've been calling Bedmap2. If the blue part is the land, what will he think of the white part?

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  4. Russian Scientists Claim New Kind of Bacterial Life Found in Lake Vostok

    Russian researchers working on samples from Lake Vostok -- a subglacial lake in Antarctica sealed away for eons by more than two miles of ice -- say they have found signs of a wholly new kind of bacterial life in water samples taken from the lake. It's a pretty impressive claim, if true, and one could quiet concerns raised late last year the lake may have been entirely devoid of life -- not to mention meaning new chapters in microbiology textbooks. Now we just have to wait and see if this bold announcement holds water.

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  5. Cold as Ice and Then Some: Penguins Are Colder Than the Air Around Them

    A team of European penguin researchers found some unexpected results when they turned infrared heat sensing cameras on a group of emperor penguins they were studying. The outer layer of the birds feathers, they found, was actually colder than the surrounding air. While it goes against common sense, keeping their outermost layers ice-cold may actually help penguins stay warm deeper inside -- where it counts.

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  6. Penguin Cam Shows Life From A Penguin’s Point of View (Spoiler: There Are Lots of Fish) [Video]

    People become scientists for a lot of reasons. Because they enjoy solving the mysteries of the universe, or want to make the world a better place to live, or just because it's a career that helps them finish the death ray they're working on in their basement. These are all noble reasons for wanting to do science -- especially the death ray thing -- but none of them is the best reason. The best reason to become a scientist, clearly, is so you can strap small cameras to Adelie penguins and make videos about their lives under the sea like the one you can watch below.

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  7. First Clean Water Sample Retrieved From Antarctic Lake Sealed by Ice for Eons

    After years of failure, a team of Russian researchers and engineers working in Antarctica have succeeded in taking a clean sample of water from Lake Vostok, a liquid water lake sealed beneath two miles of ice sheets at the bottom of the world. Scientists hope that this first untainted sample of the water -- which has been largely untouched by the outside world since prehistory -- will provide them with new insights into some of Earth's earliest lifeforms.

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  8. Aussie Explorer To Recreate Shackleton Expedition With Outdated Equipment, Probably More Avoidable, Tragic Deaths

    Here's a new one for our ever growing file of stories labelled "idiots doing idiot things because they're idiots" -- an Australian professional adventurer is hoping to recreate the last leg of polar explorer and mind-blowing badass Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated expedition to cross Antarctica by land. That's not the crossing of Antarctica that the expedition was meant to be, but the grueling fight for survival against all odds it turned into. After all, we assume the way you get to be an Australian professional adventurer is by accepting dumb bets in bars and then endangering people's lives needlessly carrying them out.

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  9. Lake Vostok Devoid Of Microbes, Bad News For Prospect Of Life Elsewhere In Solar System

    Earlier this year, a team of Russian-led engineers and researchers drilled a hole into the Earth, breaking into Lake Vostok, a liquid water lake sealed beneath the ice of Antarctica for nearly 15 million years. They were looking for signs of life in the lake -- microbes that might offer clues to what sort of creatures we could expect to run into on icy moons elsewhere in the solar system, like Saturn's satellite Europa. This week, the first analyses of water samples from the lake are in, and they're pretty disheartening. Lake Vostok appears to be devoid of microbial life.

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  10. Glen, Then Glenda: Mollusk is Born Male, Transitions to Female With Age

    Lissarca miliaris is not exactly a glamorous or remarkable creature. The small, dull, clam-like creatures are filter feeders living a typically less than exciting life beneath the cold waves and icy sheets of Antarctica. The tiny mollusk is getting some time in the spotlight, though, as it was just revealed to have one of the stranger life cycles known to science. All specimens of Lissarca miliaris are born males. As they age and grow, though, they develop female sexual organs, transitioning to a fully female form capable of bearing young by the end of their lifespan.

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  11. New Research Suggests Vast Methane Reserves Under Antarctic Ice

    A new study of Antarctic ice suggests that the continent may be harboring enormous stores of methane just beneath surface layers of ice. Okay, has everybody made their fart jokes? Good. Moving on. The main ingredient of natural gas and a common byproduct of digestion in everything from cows to people to microorganisms, methane is the among the big bads of the greenhouse gas world. It's super effective at trapping heat, trapping more than 20 times as much heat in the atmosphere than its more well-known cousin, carbon dioxide. Research published in the journal Nature suggests that there are more than 4 billion metric tons of methane underneath Antarctica's ice sheets. If that ice melts, releasing the methane stored underneath, the resulting gasses could contribute significantly to climate change. It's like the rich getting richer, only with instead of money, you have a greenhouse gas, and instead of investing wisely, everything melts.

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  12. Palm Trees Grew in Antarctica 53 Million Years Ago

    Climate change is a thing that happens. The current argument, though, isn't really about whether it happens, but whether humans, as a species, are causing it to happen faster than it naturally would occur. Antarctica, for example, wasn't always covered in ice. It was once a bustling landmass like any other. Scientists drilling on the edge of the continent have now discovered proof that it even had palm trees once upon a time.

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  13. Experts Discover Mile-Deep Valley Beneath West Antarctica

    The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing ice faster than any other part of Antarctica. Some of those glaciers it's composed of are shrinking by more than a meter per year and scientists aren't exactly sure why. We are, however, now closer to discovering the reason as experts from the University of Aberdeen and British Antarctic Survey have discovered a hidden rift valley beneath the Ferrigno Ice Stream which, in places, is a mile deeper than its surroundings.

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  14. This? Oh, It’s Nothing. Just the Aurora Australis Over Antarctica With The Milky Way

    Despite Google bringing the South Pole to your computer, there are some sights that have to be witnessed first hand to really be appreciated. Such is likely the case for this picture, taken outside the Concordia base in Antarctica. In the bitter, freezing night, the southern lights -- aurora australis -- put on an incredible show with the Milky Way.

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  15. You Can Now Tour Historic Antarctica from Home With Google Street View

    Google could already take you to some pretty amazing places with Google Maps, but their World Wonders project has upped the ante with remarkable locations from across the globe accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Now Antarctica, once considered the last frontier, can be wandered with street view. But more importantly: There are penguins.

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  16. Russian Team Breaches Underground Lake Vostok, Sealed for 15 Million Years Beneath Two Miles of Ice

    After twenty years and 2.2 miles of drilling, a Russian scientific team has reported that they have breached the ice cap above Lake Vostok some 3,768 meters beneath Antarctica. Though many had theorized the existence of lakes beneath the antarctic ice since the 19th century, conclusive proof of one did not exist until 1993 when satellite data confirmed that an ancient fresh water lake did indeed exist. Untouched for nearly 15 million years, breaching Lake Vostok could have wide ranging effects on our understanding of life itself.

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  17. Follow a Newly Released Penguin on Google Maps as He Swims to Antarctica

    A few months ago, the Emperor Penguin that would come to be known as "Happy Feet" came ashore in New Zealand. After it was clear that the penguin was not faring well on his own, rescue workers nursed him back to health and released him with the hope that he would find his way back to Antarctica. Now, the whole world can follow this plucky bird's progress from the comfort of their own homes through Google Maps. The whole scheme works thanks to a small GPS tracking device attached to the penguin. Sirtrack, the device's maker, is keen to point out that it has been specially designed not to impede the penguin's swimming ability and weighs less than 1% of the bird's weight. Twice a day, the device activates and broadcasts location data for three hours at a time, presumably to increase the onboard battery life. So far, Happy Feet seems to be doing quite well on his southward journey, but we can only hope that he doesn't get thrown off course again.

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  18. Japanese Tsunami Tore Massive Icebergs Loose from Antarctica

    As Japan continues to rebuild after March's devastating Tohoku earthquake, the broader effects of the subsequent tsunamis are still being sorted out. One of the most dramatic discoveries comes from scientists at NASA. Hoping to observe the effects of the earthquake on sea ice, researchers noticed several large icebergs floating off the Antarctic coast where there had been nothing but solid ice before. Sifting through their satellite data, it became clear that waves generated by the earthquake broke several large icebergs were loose from Antartica's Sulzberger ice shelf. The scale of the event is truly staggering: the waves traveled some 8,000 miles striking Antarctic ice 18 hours after the quake, eventually breaking off 50 square miles of ice. One of the icebergs was apparently the size of Manhattan. Amazingly, scientists were able to find imagery of the ice mass in a photo taken of the ice shelf in 1965. This showed that the ice had been intact for nearly 50 years. Check out the amazing video below from NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

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  19. Study: Emperor Penguins Do The Wave

    Taking turns seems like an easy enough concept (though lets be honest, it's not.) But for the thousands of Emperor Penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) that call Antarctica's vast ice sheets home, taking turns to stay warm is a highly complex affair.

    A team of researchers, led in part by scientists from the Department of Physics at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, set up a time lapse camera to track the movements of a pack of penguins near the Neumayer Antarctic Research Station. When sped up, the video showed subtle movements that hadn't been noticed through observation of the pack with the naked eye. The penguins, in their own way, do a version of the wave with coordinated movements that radiate through the group.

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  20. Time-Lapse Video of an Antarctic Expedition

    This very neat (and well-soundtracked) time-lapse video packs a Russian academic vessel's expedition to Antarctica into just under ten minutes.

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