Scientists have the first hints of life from a lake long trapped beneath tons of Antarctic ice.
Water retrieved from subglacial Lake Whillans contains tiny cells, and they respond to DNA-sensitive dye, Discover magazine reported. This initial test is a good sign the lake may harbor life. Further experiments in Antarctica, and with samples shipped back to the United States, will reveal whether the microscopic cells are truly alive.
Working out of shipping containers stationed above the lake, a U.S. team pulled its first samples of mud and water Monday, making the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling mission a success, the researchers said on the WISSARD project's website.
"This effort marks the first successful retrieval of clean whole samples from an Antarctic subglacial lake," the researchers wrote.
Lake Whillans is 2,625 feet (800 meters) below the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
The U.S. effort was one of three attempts during this southern summer to drill into buried lakes in Antarctica. The others were at Lake Ellsworth and Lake Vostok. Of the three lakes, Whillans was closest to the surface, by more than a mile (2 kilometers).