Montana State University

Discover magazine features pioneering Antarctic research involving MSU

June 10, 2013 -- MSU News Service

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Bozeman – A massive U.S. expedition that involves current and former Montana State University scientists is featured in the July/August issue of Discover magazine.

A super foldout titled “Antarctica Inside Out” runs from page 48 through 61 and includes more than 30 photos and graphics.  The package starts with a diary about experiencing the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. It continues with a vivid description of a project to explore one of Earth’s final frontiers. That project is called the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling project (WISSARD). One of the leaders is MSU professor John Priscu.

The Discover article on WISSARD -- "Life Under the Ice" -- opens by describing how a Hercules military cargo plane sat stranded, unable to take off after just dropping off the first scientist, 12 workers and 10,000 pounds of gear needed to explore Subglacial Lake Whillans. The article continues by describing how the team finally reached the lake, collected water and sediment, and whooped at the discovery of mineral salts that could serve as food for microbes.

The historic project took more than a decade of planning and 3 ½ years of project preparation and a national team involving MSU faculty, staff and students.  After hauling equipment hundreds of miles across the Antarctic ice and an intense week of weather delays, the team melted holes through half a mile of ice and reached Lake Whillans at 5 a.m. Jan. 28.  Researchers involved in WISSARD collected water and sediment from the lake. They continue to process those samples to answer questions relating to one of Earth’s final frontiers.

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Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or evelynb@montana.edu