Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences

Surprise from the Lava Lake at Antarctica's Erebus

339057_349895958357323_118746311472290_1624584_212356473_o.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The lava lake at Antarctica's Erebus, seen in December 2011. Image: Clive Oppenheimer / Volcanofiles. Lava lakes are a relatively rare volcanic features -- there are only a handful of active ones on the planet. Kilauea (with two), Ambrym, Villarrica, Nyiragongo, Erta'Ale, a fairly new, possibly ephemeral lake at Tolbachik and probably the most remote lava lake of them all, Erebus in Antarctica. The Erebus lava lake as been a persistent feature on the volcano for decades (if not longer). However, it's remote location means it is normally monitored by satellite unless conditions allow for a team to reach the summit of the volcano from McMurdo Station (see above). As the southern hemisphere begins to head into fall, just such an opportunity came last week, so geologists from McMurdo set off to view the lava lake. What they found took everyone by surprise (including me). It has long been thought that life arose around volcano features like active vents and thermal features -- we've seen clear documentation of all sorts of life around black smokers around Antarctica and even bacteria living in very hot vents in places like the Yellowstone caldera. However, life in a place like Erebus has never been documented before. Dr. Julian Bashir from the US Antarctic Survey said it best: "as we descended the slope towards the Erebus lava lake, we were all struck by the strange sounds that were emanating from the crater. The haze of steam and volcanic gases finally lifted as the wind shifted some and much to our amazement, we could see something actually moving around on the lava lake!" The team was only able to take a few quick shots of before conditions worsened, but if this sighting proves to be true, our understanding of how life arose on our planet -- and others in the solar system -- could be changed forever.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In