Life at the Frigid Edge: Microbes turn up deep in Antarctic lake ice

11:18am, December 17, 2002

A pocket of cold, concentrated saltwater at the bottom of Antarctica's Lake Vida has been sealed off from the world for at least 2,800 years. Yet it could still harbor life, say researchers who found microbes in the ice right above the briny layer.

Peter T. Doran of the University of Illinois in Chicago and his team started studying the frozen 5-kilometer-long lake after learning that it contains liquid.

Previously, researchers thought that Lake Vida–one of the largest lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys desert–was just a "big chunk of ice," says Doran. However, in 1995 ice-penetrating radar revealed saltwater 19 meters down. "This brine pocket in the center of the lake popped up like a sore thumb," says Doran.

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