Scientists from Great Britain may have spotted a lake beneath the Antarctic ice. The ribbon-shaped lake, which measures around 100 kilometres long by 10 kilometres wide, could harbour life that has been untouched for millions of years.

Apparently, they found that the long channels and canyons extend from the lake up to more than 1,000 kilometres toward eastern Antarctica on Princess Elizabeth Land, between the Vestfold Hills and the West Ice Shelf. They say that two channels may carry water from the West Ice Shelf into the ocean.

The scientists published their findings last December 22, 2015 but provided more information this month at the European Geosciences Meeting in Vienna. Based on satellite analysis, they believe that the lake is connected to a canyon system, approximately 1,094 kilometres in extent.

“We’ve seen these strange, linear channels on the surface, and are inferring these are above massive, 1,000-kilometre-long channels, and there’s a relatively large subglacial lake there too,” says Imperial College London researcher Martin Siegert.

The researchers add that further studies are still needed to confirm the presence of the lake. Once confirmed, this could improve Antarctic research as well as studies on subglacial lakes.


An artist’s cross-section of Lake Vostok’s drilling. Credit: Nicolle Rager-Fuller / NSF

Moreover, they believe that they will find life in this lake just like in Lake Vostok, the largest lake found under the Antarctic ice. The Russian researchers found species of translucent fish and several small crustaceans in Lake Vostok.

The scientists were surprised to find out that life can still thrive in such an isolated place where even the sun’s rays cannot reach. So far, they are not sure about how these animals got nutrients to survive for this long. Nevertheless, some speculated that the animals were nourished through chemosynthesis, a process where bacteria and other microbes feed on minerals that fall from the ice above or leak through the marine sediments underground.