0621 GMT January 20, 2019
Research divers who inspected the seafloor below the Ross Ice Shelf for the first time in eight years ago said in the past marine creatures here were sparse because it was usually in darkness, The Independent wrote.
But they think the thinning of the ice shelf explains why this time they found organisms such as deep-sea sponges, sea stars, brittle stars and sea cucumbers, The Washington Post reported.
They suspect the change is due to sunlight now being able to filter through the frozen mass due to climate change — allowing plankton to form and sustain a wider variety of underwater life.
The team of scientist divers — three from Finland and six from New Zealand — are currently camping on the ice shelf near New Harbour in the Ross Sea from where they embark on their underwater expeditions.
Two of the researchers noted how the marine life had changed since the group’s first trip below the frozen mass on a previous venture, one of the group reported.
Finnish scientist Patrick Degerman wrote in a dispatch that two days ago, [two of the researchers] did the first dive of the year under the ice in crystal clear water, and much to everyone’s surprise, the animal community on the seafloor had changed dramatically since the last visit in 2009.
“The first diver observations show that the changes can be unexpectedly rapid, even in Antarctica, where everything is expected to happen very slowly due to the low temperature,” he added on the expedition’s Facebook page, 'Science Under the Ice'.