Antarctica shock: How NASA was stunned by ‘unexpected creature’ 600 feet below ice | Science | News

Antarctica is Earth’s southernmost continent where the geographic South Pole is located. The frozen desert is home to some 1,000 scientists who live in the blistering conditions that reach -90C at times, as they attempt to understand more about the history of Earth. NASA too has a keen interest, both for space exploration and scientific research and, in 2010, a team from the space agency was left “surprised” after drilling into the ice.

They pushed a camera into a hole more than 600 feet below the West Antarctica Ice Sheet and spotted a small shrimp-like creature dancing around.

Bob Bindschadler of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre remembered the moment well, revealing:  “We were like little kids huddling around, just oohing and aahing at this little creature swimming around and giving us a little show.

“It was the thrill of discovery that made us giddy, just totally unexpected.

“We thought we were just going into a deep, dark cold water hole and never anticipated we’d see any life.

NASA researchers captured a bizarre creature below the ice

NASA researchers captured a bizarre creature below the ice (Image: NASA/GETTY)

The team drilled a hole a put a camera down

The team drilled a hole a put a camera down (Image: GETTY)

It was the thrill of discovery that made us giddy, just totally unexpected

Bob Bindschadler 

“The colour was what caught our eyes.”

The complex critter was identified as a Lyssianasid amphipod, about three inches in length.

Alberto Behar, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was the brains behind the state-of-the-art camera used to capture the moment/

He remembered the day well, stating: “This was the first time we’d had a camera able to look back up at the ice. 

“This probe is an upgrade to the original, it has three cameras – down, side and back-looking.

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The tiny creature clutching on to the camera

The tiny creature clutching on to the camera (Image: NASA)

“The back-looking camera saw the shrimp-like animal.

“The real benefit of these exploration programmes is that you go in not knowing what you’re going to find and you get surprised. 

“It makes it worth all the trouble putting everything together when you find something new that you didn’t expect.”

Dr Behar designed the original NASA borehole camera apparatus in 1999. 

It has since seen six deployments with British, Australian and American science teams in Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska.

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The discovery was made in West Antarctica

The discovery was made in West Antarctica (Image: NASA)

Alberto Behar of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Alberto Behar of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Image: NASA)

The rig, originally developed by NASA, has proven to be invaluable to science teams around the world. 

Dr Behar added: “We wouldn’t be able to use it in the places we’ve gone without collaboration with the National Science Foundation and our British and Australian partners, among many others.

“When we get to Pine Island we’ll be able to look at the seafloor. 

“We couldn’t do it this time because the cavity was deeper than we expected, but we’ll have a kilometre of cable at Pine Island.”

It’s not unusual to find amphipods and other marine life in Antarctic waters. 

The complex circulatory system of the surrounding ocean brings warm, salty, nutrient-rich water towards the Antarctic continent, helping to sustain life even in the cold, dark winter. 

More recently, scientists on Expedition Antarctica caught an “amazing” creature alive after the deepest drop below the ice ever.

While the mission is still ongoing, “The Secrets of Antarctica” documentary was released on YouTube in July revealing the amazing finds to date.

The narrator detailed: “As Tangaroa steams north into deeper water, Julie deports a multiple opening and closing net.

Antarctica territory claims

Antarctica territory claims (Image: DX/GETTY)

“Each tentacle of this has snatched plankton and krill from various depths.

“Along with the microscopic animals known as zooplankton, Lisa spies a tiny deep-sea squid, a little gift for the squid guy.”

Scientist Lisa Bryant then determined that the creature was still alive, much to the excitement of the rest of the team.

She said: “It’s beautiful and in really good condition.

“You know we’ve found some fascinating things, but it’s not often they’re bright red which is really cool.

“This one is great and very much still alive.”

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