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Antarctic ice hides a wonderful underwater habitat

For the first time, scientists have been able to film the colourful world that thrives beneath a metre of sea ice

Who would have guessed that beneath the white frozen wastes of the Antarctic is a universe alive with colour? Scientists from the Australian Antarctic Division have brought to light the wonders hidden beneath the icy surface.

After opening a hole in the thick layer of ice, the research team lowered a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), with a camera attached, to record footage of the thriving world beneath the Antarctic ice.

Almost extra-terrestrial in its strangeness, the Antarctic seabed is filled with spidery starfish, marine flowers, algae, and other species of aquatic flora that sway to the movement of the currents. A 1.5-metre-thick layer of ice covers this remarkable ecosystem for 10 months of the year, protecting it from intemperate weather. Beneath the ice, the water temperature is -1.5 degrees Celsius (29.3 degrees Fahrenheit) all year round.

‘Occasionally an iceberg may move around and wipe out an unlucky community, but mostly the sea ice provides protection from the storms that rage above, making it a relatively stable environment in which biodiversity can flourish,’ explains Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Glenn Johnstone.


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