A team of researchers camping in Antarctica plunged into a breathtaking world below the ice, revealing some bizarre and wonderful creatures that, according to the team, are present nowhere else on Earth.
The research took weeks of camping and diving under the ice, which is over 10 feet (3 meters) thick in some areas, at one of the globe’s most southernmost accessible dive sites. With marine ecologist Dr. Drew Lohrer as lead, the goal of the expedition was to analyze the way weather change is impacting marine biodiversity across the Atlantic coastline.
About the creatures they discovered, Dr. Lohrer said: “These organisms are beautiful and iconic. There are certain types that are present nowhere else on Earth. ‘Science Under the Ice’ is what we’ve been calling our project where we’ve been studying the resilience of organisms, seafloor organisms, to climate-related changes.”
“We do Science Under the Ice, literally, by scuba diving under the frozen ocean in Antarctica. The most recent trip was to Explorers Cove on New Harbor, which is in the Ross Sea. Our team was nine scientists and technicians, and, of those, seven of them were scientific divers,” the researcher added.
Dr. Lohrer further revealed the incredible experience the divers had. They went diving underneath the ice to carry out a large-scale experiment that involved incubation chambers they deployed on the seafloor.
“We also surveyed the fauna using standard survey techniques, and we collected organisms for isotopic analysis. So we can reconstruct food webs and how they’ve changed since our previous trips. The water is -2C, so very, very cold, and we have to dive through 10 feet of sea ice in order to access our study sites,” Dr. Lohrer explained.
Revealing some of the amazing creatures found on the seafloor in a video on YouTube, the researcher further detailed why the study is important to assaying changes over time.
He also said that diving under the ice is rather surreal, explaining that it is ‘like diving in twilight because the light is dim because of the vistas that you get towards the underside of the ice with light coming through. And the clarity of the water is unbelievable; it’s almost like you are floating in air rather than water.’
Dr. Lohrer concluded, saying that documenting what is on the seafloor under the ice and how it’s changing over time is incredibly important.