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A weird upside-down world lurks beneath Antarctica’s ice

A weird upside-down world lurks beneath Antarctica’s ice

One of the least-explored places on Earth lies just off the coast of Antarctica. Some 1.5 million square kilometers (580,000 square miles) of ocean there — a vast area the size of Alaska — sits in perpetual darkness. It hides beneath 200 to 600 meters (650 to 2,000 feet) of floating ice. That makes it virtually inaccessible to humans.

Still, in January 2020, a team of researchers made a rare attempt to explore it. They camped on the floating Thwaites Ice Shelf. There, they melted a narrow hole 600 meters (2,000 feet) through the ice. Then they lowered a long, skinny, remote-controlled submarine — called Icefin — to probe the dark waters below.

And it turned up a startling discovery.

As Britney Schmidt watched, the sub’s camera displayed glistening stars. They dangled like Christmas tree ornaments from the icy ceiling above. Dozens of these sparkling stars waved their arms like flower petals.

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