A U.S. team recently melted holes through a half mile of ice to Lake Whillans on the Antarctic continent.

Evelyn Boswell of the MSU News Service reports the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project was successful in reaching the isolated lake and collecting water and sediment January 28.

WISSARD Science Project Manager Robert Edwards of MSU was quoted as saying, "The analysis of these samples and data...will allow WISSARD scientists to directly address...the nature of the subglacial aquatic environment...on the margin of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet."

The drilling project was the first time that clean, whole samples had been successfully retrieved from an Antarctic subglacial lake which may have been isolated from the outside atmosphere for thousands of years.

Montana State University members of the U.S. team were:

  • John Priscu - chief scientist for the U.S. team and professor in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences.
  • Susan Kelly - WISSARD Education and Public Outreach Officer.
  • Doctoral student Alex Michaud from Eagan, Minnesota
  • Doctoral student Trista Vick-Majors from Calhan, Colorado

The team has a website and a Facebook page, which is reporting early results from the samples.