Scientists researching the frozen Lake Vida in East Antarctica have discovered living microbes, sealed away beneath the ice for 2800 years.
They retrieved the bacteria by drilling some 27 meters into the ice, where it flourished in salty, unfrozen water.
“[The bacteria] probably survive by metabolising the abundant quantities of hydrogen and oxides of nitrogen that Vida’s salty, oxygen-free water has been found to contain.” – Lake life survives in total isolation for 3000 years, NewScientist
What’s even more interesting is that these microbes belong to “previously unknown species.”
If we ever discover life beyond Earth, chances are it will similarly be in the form of microbes hidden deep within the frozen oceans of a distant planet or moon. Jupiter’s moon Europa is a very likely candidate, as is Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Projects are already underway to get a space drill up there and find out.
While this latest discovery is no guarantee that life will always survive in such conditions (not to mention that these microbes were only sealed away for a few thousands years, far less than anything we may find out in the cosmos), it’s still an indication that, if nothing else, it’s possible.