News & information on Antarctica & the Southern Ocean

Podcast: Lake Whillans; retrieving uncontaminated samples from a sub-glacial lake in Antarctica.

Drilling into sub-glacial Lake Whillans Photo: Reed Scherer, WISSARD Project

In this podcast interview, we speak to Professor Helen Amanda Fricker of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, at the University of California San Diego. 

In 2007 Helen led a team that detected an active subglacial water system under the Whillans Ice Stream by using data from NASA’s ICESat satellite. The hydrological system consisted of several interconnected subglacial lakes, one of which was named Lake Whillans.   

Helen Amanda Fricker became one of the primary investigators in the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling project (or WISSARD). The team spent many years devising a safe sampling procedure for sub-glacial lakes. Contamination in the drilling process could cast doubt on any life found, as well as run the risk of introducing invasive organisms into the lake.

Finally in January 2013, the WISSARD team successfully drilled down into Lake Whillans and obtained the first sample ever retrieved directly from a subglacial lake in Antarctica.

Click here to listen to the podcast interview of Helen Amanda Fricker

Related Articles
Latest Podcast Episodes