Subglacial Lake CECs


In May 2015, the laboratory published in the journal GRL, the article : "Subglacial Lake CECs: Discovery and in situ survey of a privileged research site in West Antartica"





Lake CECs is the first subglacial lake with ground measurements confirmed at the Chilean Antarctic territory , and around the Antarctic continent the first discovered by researchers that are not from Europe or the United States. It is only 10 geographical degrees of the pole and its surface is at least 18 square kilometers.





The discovery and detailed verification


Early indications were detected in the summer of 2014, while the mobile station CECs1 moved through the central plateau of western Antarctica, approximately 80 ° S latitude only 10 geographic degrees of the south pole. The day January 21, 2014 ground radar measurements showed returns subglacial different than those observed to date, indicating the presence of a massive body of water to a little more than 2.6 kilometers deep under the ice. He immediately made ??a first mapping ice -penetrating radar , which confirmed the finding . He returned the following year and an exhaustive mapping was completed. The results were then analyzed in detail and were sent for publication in the journal of matter, Geophysical Research Letters, where the article appeared on 22 last May.





Special qualities of Lake


The subglacial lake CECs is in a dividing zone of three large glaciers of western Antarctica, where are born great ice streams, so it is in a situation of low disturbance. In its vicinity ice movement it is almost nonexistent. This allows to characterize the lake as a water body extremely stable, with minimal mass exchanges with their environment, making it a virtually encapsulated lake. Which favors the hypothesis that harbors life, it would have developed in conditions of extreme isolation.



The lake had remained invisible to systems with satellite laser (IceSat) because it does not disturb the surface, no varies the height of the ice and therefore are not experiencing large volumetric changes, because it is in a deep pit, far below the sea level.



Its location is also simple access from the logistical point of view, only 160 kilometers from the Union glacier, where can land large aircraft, which contributed significantly to the exploration and discovery overland.



The subglacial lake CECs, an opportunity to access a new world


For years the scientific community has been determined to prove the hypothesis that even in the extreme conditions of a closed subglacial lake, we find life , preferably the most different from the one we know , ideally all an extremophile eco system. From a scientific point of view, it would be the closest thing to travel to another planet and find life.



To date it has been possible to drill the ice sheet that covers, and insert a probe into just a subglacial lake, Lake Whillans. the biological findings were published five months ago indicated that this subglacial lake, just 600 meters deep, has life, including fish, partly because it has a greater exchange of matter and water after passing through the lake reaches Ross sea, so it is not a closed system. Hence the need to find a candidate sufficiently accessible so be feasible drilling, but at the same time the body of water be the most encapsulated possible. The CECs Lake offers a unique opportunity, precisely because it combines exceptionally low disturbance and its high residence with greater logistics accessibility if compared to other alternatives. Drilling and the introduction of a probe that does not pollute, are the next step, after the discovery and exploration geophysics. The challenge is greater, but not impossible.