Document DetailsA 60-year international history of Antarctic subglacial lake exploration
|Periodical/Journal:||Exploration of Subsurface Antarctica: Uncovering Past Changes and Modern Processes. Geological Society, London, Special Publications,|
In January 2013, the US WISSARD programme measured and sampled Lake Whillans,a subglacial water body at the edge of West Antarctica, in a clean and environmentally sensitive manner, proving the existence of microbial life beneath this part of the ice sheet. The success of WISSARD represented a benchmark in the exploration of Antarctica, made possible by a rich and diverse history of events, discoveries and discussions over the past 60 years, ranging from geophysical measurement of subglacial lakes to the development of scientific hypotheses concerning these environments and the engineering solutions required to test them. In this article, I provide a personal account of this history, from the published literature and my own involvement in subglacial lake exploration over the last 20 years. I show that our ability to directly measure and sample subglacial water bodies in Antarctica has been made possible by a strong theme of international collaboration, at odds with the media representation of a scientific 'race' between nations. I also consider plans for subglacial lake exploration and discuss how such collaboration is likely to be key to success of future research in this field.