Scientists believe they have found evidence of a subglacial lake beneath Antarctica that may boast unique life that has lived in isolation for millions of years.

According to Discovery News, the ribbon-shaped lake is thought to measure 87 by 12 miles, and is connected to an extensive canyon system.  

The researchers initially reported the discovery in late 2015 in Geology, but recently presented their evidence for a subglacial lake this week at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.

Located in east Antarctica, Princess Elizabeth Land remains largely unsurveyed. The team used satellite imagery for their investigation.

According to New Scientist, the long channels are believed to extend to Princess Elizabeth Land’s eastern coast, wedged between the Vestfold Hills and West Ice Shelf. 

Researcher Stewart Jamieson, of Durham University, told that, “An initial survey of the area, using radar, has now been carried out and the task that now lies ahead is to analyze and interpret a large amount of data with respect to the lake and canyons.”

If confirmed, the new lake would be the second largest subglacial lake, right behind Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, which is covered by more than 3,700-m of ice.

“The potential discovery of large canyons and lakes could have a big impact on our understanding of tectonic and hydrological evolution in this part of the ice sheet,” glacial scientist Christine Dow, of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told New Scientist. Study co-author Martin Siegert, of Imperial College London, added that the team is meeting in May to peruse the data.

Perhaps when and if they sample those subglacial waters, they’ll find hitherto unknown ecosystems teeming with microbial life.    


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