Shortly after Christmas Day in 2018, a group of scientists are tirelessly at work in the wilderness of Antarctica. They’ve just finished cutting a deep hole into the ice, in fact, and have now reached a subglacial lake. From there, the team drop some specialist apparatus down the chasm to take water samples. And against all odds, it turns out that their festive season is going to be filled with gifts after all.
You see, the hole that the scientists had opened up actually led down to Mercer Subglacial Lake. And, just in case, a subglacial lake is exactly as its name suggests: a lake underneath a glacier. Yet not much is known about these formations. After all, their obscured positions mean that they’ve seldom been investigated in the past.
But this particular operation on December 26, 2018, fell under the banner of the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) expedition. Some 50 staff, all of whom contribute various levels of expertise, are said to be involved with the project too. A number of the team are scientists, of course, yet others are concerned specifically with drilling.
In any case, what the group ended up finding on this occasion left them stunned. For they’d come across something unusual – and it had the potential to significantly alter the scientific understanding of Antarctica. As one of the team members, David Harwood, put it, the discovery had been “fully unexpected.” Yet it was tens of thousands of years in the making.
With a majority of its land being polar desert, Antarctica is naturally considered to be the chilliest and driest continent on Earth. The continent experiences extremely low annual temperatures, too, and is largely coated with sheets of ice averaging at around 1.2 miles in depth. Generally speaking, in fact, the coldest period of a year typically reaches beyond -76 °F.
Given its harsh conditions, then, Antarctica doesn’t have a native human population. It’s also the last continent on Earth that anyone came to know about. Russian explorers first observed Antarctica in 1820, in fact – yet it was a while before anyone actually set foot there. In 1895, to be precise, a group of people from Norway arrived aboard the ship Antarctica.
And today – more than 100 years since people first reached the continent – there’s still much to learn about Antarctica. After all, the area’s isolated position and its generally uninhabitable conditions make it a particularly difficult place in which to undertake studies. But having said that, modern technology is helping to make things a little easier.
Yet since 1961 Antarctica has been administered by various countries under what’s known as the Antarctic Treaty System. This was an agreement forged in 1959 between 12 parties, including the United States, the Soviet Union and Argentina. Since then, however, the agreement has expanded – and it now encompasses 54 signatories.
The Antarctic Treaty System ensures that certain protections are in place on the continent. And as a result, no military actions are permitted there – nor are countries allowed to exploit the area’s natural resources. But, crucially, the agreement guarantees that scientific probing of the region is allowed to take place.
So a number of scientific research bases have been established around Antarctica. These are inhabited all year round, too, with the number of people present depending on the season. During the winter, for instance, around 1,000 people might be found in Antarctica, whereas in summer it might be closer to 5,000.
Yet the continent itself stretches out across 5.4 million square miles, with a coastline of around 11,160 miles. Antarctica is therefore considered to be the fifth-biggest continent on planet Earth. For a sense of scale, we can say that it’s around 1.3 times the size of Europe.
There are a number of natural water features located across the expanses of Antarctica as well. For instance, the Onyx River is 20 miles long, which makes it the most significant river on the continent in terms of length. The most considerable lake, on the other hand, is called Vostok.
Vostok is a subglacial lake situated more than 13,000 feet beneath Vostok Station – a Russian research base. And the lake is about 160 miles in length and 30 miles in width, with an area of 4,830 square miles. This makes it the 16th most considerable lake on Earth, in terms of surface area.
Aside from Lake Vostok, though, there are just under 400 other subglacial lakes confirmed to exist throughout Antarctica. One of these, of course, is the aforementioned Mercer Lake, which is located to the continent’s western side. This is topped by ice that measures at around 3,500 feet in thickness. But there’s more.
According to the journal Nature, Mercer is actually “twice the size of Manhattan” and takes its name from the Mercer Ice Stream that lies underneath it. It was first accidentally stumbled upon by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Helen Amanda Fricker in 2007. For she noticed the body of water when she was analyzing a glacier with satellite radar technology.
Fricker is also a member of the SALSA project, which concerns itself with Mercer Lake. Ultimately, then, the initiative seeks to understand the geological activity of the area in which the lake is situated. And the team involved also hopes to get a handle on any lifeforms that might potentially exist there.
For you see, the study of life within subglacial lakes is interesting – given the specific conditions that define them. Specifically, the notion of organisms thriving in an environment without light is something worthy of consideration. Many of the living things on our planet get their energy through the process of photosynthesis, after all.
Put simply, photosynthesis sees specific types of bacteria, plants and algae absorbing light from the Sun and converting it into chemical energy. This is then used to sustain the organism in undertaking its various functions. And as you may already know, the process is essential in upholding the amount of oxygen on Earth.
But there are actually microorganisms that cannot make use of light in order to survive. Lifeforms like those found in subglacial lakes are such examples. These, in fact, live by different means, such as by making use of matter that is found in rock.
So it should come as no surprise that subglacial environments in Antarctica aren’t tremendously well understood. After all, they’re not exactly easy to reach. Before the SALSA project was launched, in fact, only one other subglacial lake had ever been examined. This was Lake Whillans, which is situated underneath 2,600 feet of ice.
In setting up the SALSA project, however, the scientists hoped to increase the scope of understanding related to subglacial life. Such work could potentially lead to more insights into how lifeforms can live in such extreme conditions too. And the scientific implications of this, potentially, could prove to be significant.
So in December 2018 members of the SALSA team set out on the sheets of ice above Lake Mercer. And following four days of tinkering with their equipment, they started drilling operations on December 23. Working quicker than anticipated, the team reached the lake three days later, having cut through over 3,550 feet of ice.
And on December 27 the researchers were ready to drop scientific apparatus down the pit that they’d created. As we’ve seen, they eventually managed to snap some footage of the lake’s subterranean waters too. Remember, this lake – despite being found so far beneath the Earth’s surface – is believed to be around double Manhattan’s size.
In the immediate aftermath of the drilling operation, SALSA’s scientific lead, John Priscu, chatted to website Earther about its significance. “We don’t know what we’ll find,” he said, speaking over a satellite phone from Antartica. “We’re just learning, it’s only the second time that [an operation of this nature] has been done.”
But with the hole pierced through the ice, the scientists were then able to start their various analyses. So, as well as recording a video of the lake, the team also measured temperatures and retrieved samples of matter and water. They took samples from the depths of the lake, too, including sediment from the bottom and ice from the top. And that’s just for the appetizers.
In fact, it’s expected that the extracted samples will be pored over for the next few years. And this is a point that wasn’t lost on Matt Siegfried, one of the scientists involved in the project. “We’re knee-deep right [now] sampling the deepest standing water body humans have ever accessed beneath Antarctica,” he told Earther. “[So] it’ll take some time to process what the most exciting part [is].”
Yet despite the inevitable wait, there have nonetheless been some confirmed findings. For instance, in mid-January 2019 – less than a month after the drilling exercise – the journal Nature published an article. And within this, it was revealed that the SALSA team had come across signs of life from Lake Mercer.
Specifically, the researchers had seemingly managed to come across the remains of a variety of minuscule creatures. The Nature journal described these life forms as being “smaller than poppy seeds.” But these animals were both crustaceans and what are known as tardigrades – or, in layman’s terms, water bears.
Tardigrades are in fact considered to be micro-animals – that is, creatures that can only be seen with a microscope. They have been known about since at least 1773, when German Johann August Ephraim Goeze termed them “little water bears.” And four years later, Italian Lazzaro Spallanzani coined the term “tardigrada,” which translates as “slow steppers.”
Interestingly, when these micro-animals have developed fully, tardigrades tend to measure up at little more than 0.02 inches in length. They appear quite thick and compact, with four legs on each of their sides. At the end of these legs are claws – or what are known as sucking disks.
Importantly, though, tardigrades are noted for their immense resilience against a wide variety of severe conditions. So one can find tardigrades at great depths underwater, inside mud volcanoes or, of course, in Antartica. Suffice it to say, then, they’re found in places that would snuff out the majority of other organisms and are capable of surviving in the harshest of circumstances.
But it was nonetheless a surprise when the researchers found tardigrades – and crustaceans – in Lake Mercer. After all, until this point, it was suspected that only simpler organisms could survive in subglacial lakes. But now there is evidence to suggest a greater deal of biodiversity within this extreme environment.
And what’s more, the specific nature of the discovered organisms added to the researchers’ sense of astonishment. It was found that the tardigrades were actually similar to lifeforms that exist in wet soils. Yet the crustaceans may actually have potentially come from the ocean or from icy lakes.
One theory about where these lifeforms’ ancestry comes from is that they once lived in the waters of the nearby Transantarctic Mountains. This would have been during one of Antarctica’s warmer stretches of time – perhaps 10,000 or 120,000 years ago. And when the place got colder, these micro-animals would then have been covered by ice.
But the theories of how these creatures ended up at Lake Mercer are debatable – for now, at least. Yet some light might be shed on the matter if the SALSA researchers manage to figure out the micro-animals’ age. And this could in turn help to inform scientists on the history of Antarctica’s glaciers.
Experts aside from SALSA members have given their reaction to the initial findings too. For instance, Slawek Tulaczyk, a glacier specialist from the University of California, was involved with the 2013 study of Lake Whillans. And although he’s worked in the field for several decades, he’s never seen anything like the discovery at Lake Mercer. “This is really cool,” he told Nature. “It’s definitely surprising.”
Tulaczyk has also suggested that the ancient micro-animals ended up in Lake Mercer after being swept there by rivers. Another proposition is that they may have been drawn along by a glacier moving away from the nearby mountains. But there is still some need for caution, it seems, as the creatures could’ve got there via another route entirely.
In fact, SALSA’s Priscu said that the micro-animals might merely have emerged as a result of contamination via his team’s instruments. “I’m pretty cautious about making claims,” he told Nature. If the creatures were actually found to have come from Lake Mercer, though, it “would be a real ‘wow’ moment.”
On January 5, 2019, the SALSA team closed up the hole they had made and left the site. From that point on, their work seemingly slowed up a little, with analyses taking more time to complete. And various techniques are now being employed – methods which will hopefully shed light on the creatures’ age and DNA.
So there are still many questions that need answering about the discovery at Lake Mercer. In fact, there’s even the possibility that organisms live there today. But scientists have at least made a start in their quest for understanding, using a mere “teaspoon” sample from the depths. And just imagine if they manage to take home even more material next time around? Well, we could then be in for a real big treat.
Antarctica is, of course, the source of much curiosity. When some internet researchers spotted a strange alleged object on the Antarctic ice, for instance, their thoughts turned to visitors from another world. Yes, using satellite technology, enthusiasts thousands of miles away speculate on the object’s mysterious origins. But was the phenomenon evidence of visitors from outer space – or was something more mundane responsible?
Ever since humankind first began looking to the stars, we have dreamed about alien civilizations that might exist in the farthest reaches of the universe. And as time has passed, our obsession has grown from science fiction into a genuine search for extraterrestrial life.
Today, scientists around the world conduct experiments designed to communicate with potential civilizations on distant planets. And with radio telescopes scanning the skies, some nations have spent millions sending probes and messages out past our solar system and into the great unknown.
At the same time, there also exist a very different collection of individuals investigating the possibilities of alien life. In private residences across the globe, a core group of enthusiasts dedicate their lives to finding proof that we are not alone. Often convinced that evidence of extraterrestrials is being deliberately kept from the public, these devotees are determined to reveal what they perceive to be the truth.
One such set of individuals is known as Secureteam – a United States-based research group that claims to work to expose a government cover-up surrounding extraterrestrial life. To that end, members of the group have released dozens of videos on their YouTube channel, each detailing their forays into the unexplained.
More than 1.3 million people currently subscribe to Secureteam10 for regular updates of weird news from around the world. And on March 3, 2018, viewers were treated to a particularly shocking video. Apparently, researchers scanning Google Earth had spotted something mysterious on South Georgia Island – a remote, sparsely populated area of Antarctica close to the southern tip of Argentina.
Narrated by a man known only as Tyler, the video focuses in on a strip of mountainous land cut off from the Antarctic by the freezing Atlantic Ocean. There, eagle-eyed researchers had spotted a strange apparent object resting on the surface of the ice. So, could the unidentified mass be alien in origin?
In the video, Tyler spells out the details of the discovery. “It appears to me at least to be some sort of massive, elongated or cigar-shaped object that at some point, and we don’t know when, came to a screeching halt in the snow, leaving behind it almost a 1,000-meter-long trail,” he explains.
And that wasn’t all. After following the trail left behind by the alleged object, researchers discovered an area of mountainside that appeared to have suffered some kind of damage. What’s more, it looked as if the supposed object had traveled in a straight line from that location in a manner perhaps more typically associated with an artificial object than any kind of natural phenomenon.
Had the apparent object fallen out of the sky, crashed into the mountainside and skidded to a dramatic halt? Well, Taylor certainly seems to think so, and in the video he presents what appears to be some convincing evidence. For example, a close-up reveals a strangely angular nature to the bizarre discovery.
“We can see on top of it we have a lot of rigid and sharp ends, also casting shadows over to the side,” Taylor explains. “Even the shadows themselves at their longest, specifically this one at the end, measure around 12 meters long.” The tracks were also estimated to be about 30 feet wide.
So what exactly had Secureteam discovered buried under the ice? Over the course of the video, Taylor outlines a number of theories. In one, he posits that the assumed object is of aerial origin, stranded in Antarctica after a crash. In another hypothesis, he suggests that the alleged object may have actually burst out of the mountain itself – perhaps after having been buried there by persons unknown.
Interestingly, the researchers have been unable to determine whether or not the supposed object was permanently abandoned on the Antarctic ice. In fact, because the image is the result of a single satellite snapping pictures as it orbits the Earth, it’s impossible to tell if the anomaly was captured mid-movement or after it had apparently ground to a halt.
Either way, it isn’t the first time that strange goings-on in Antarctica have been attributed to visitors from another world. Back in April 2018 a writer for the website UFO Sightings Hotspot claimed to have seen something unusual off the coast of the frozen continent. Allegedly, it was an iceberg with so many strange features that it might not have been natural at all.
According to the writer, the discovery did not line up with any of the usual geological classifications associated with icebergs. Moreover, old satellite images of the area showed that the feature was a relatively recent addition to the landscape. “This object is really peculiar,” the article claimed, “and looks like a vessel disguised as an iceberg.”
Meanwhile, in February 2018 researchers at Secureteam had made another strange discovery in Antarctica. Apparently, they had used a commercially available heat map to identify an area of unexplained activity in a remote part of the continent. And if the research group are to be believed, the anomaly could be proof of a secret underground base.
According to some conspiracy theorists, Antarctica is something of a hotspot for these supposed secret bases. Why? Because it provides an area away from prying eyes where, it’s suggested, the government can carry out all manner of nefarious deeds – including dealing with alien technology and crashed UFOs. But is there any truth to these claims?
Unsurprisingly, to date the United States government has always denied having engaged in any secret dealings with visitors from other worlds. But of course, that hasn’t stopped internet theorists from continuing to speculate – and easy access to satellite footage from around the world has seemed to further feed their imaginations.
So, what is really shown in Secureteam’s video of the strange apparent object and its trail across the ice? Although UFO enthusiasts seem keen to deem the phenomenon alien in origin, others have been quick to suggest a more prosaic explanation. In fact, one commenter – who claims to have formerly been a photographer at a nearby research station – attributes the anomaly to nothing more than a quirk of the local geology.
As the user explains in the comments section of the video, “I can confirm 100 percent that what you see in the image is just the result of a glacial slide. Sorry.” However, that doesn’t seem to have dented the popularity of the video, which has racked up some 2,300,000 views to date. And while the vid is unlikely to convince any skeptics, it’s enough to keep many dreaming that the truth really is out there.
But remarkably, this isn’t the only discovery that has sparked conspiracy theories of alien spaceships. Treasure hunter Darrell Miklos, for example, claimed that he’d identified such an object hidden beneath the waves of the Bermuda Triangle. And the evidence, you may well find, is rather compelling.
It was actually a search for old English shipwrecks that had led Miklos to the Bahamas. But as the treasure hunter roved the seabed inside a hi-tech submersible, he laid eyes on something unexpected. Incredibly, he’d found a vast and unfathomable structure that appears to be neither natural nor manmade. What the structure is, where it has come from and who – or what – may have built it were a complete mystery…
The Bermuda Triangle – also nicknamed the Devil’s Triangle – has a notorious reputation for weird happenings. The area in question covers a triangular stretch of ocean between the southern tip of Florida and the Caribbean islands of Bermuda and Puerto Rico. And it is, according to popular myth, a vortex of unexplained disasters. In fact, some 75 aircraft together with oceangoing vessels numbering in the hundreds have gone missing there – and yet nobody really knows why.
There are theories, of course, and they range from the mundane to the outright bizarre. Some blame the disappearances on natural forces such as the Gulf Stream. Others posit otherworldly involvement. And while skeptics may balk at such outlandish conjecture, in 2018 Miklos located an enormous Unidentified Submerged Object (USO) on the seabed inside the triangle. Could it be, then, that those alien-related theories were suddenly rendered not as farfetched as they first appear?
A 55-year-old professional salvager, Miklos has spent decades roaming the oceans in search of sunken treasure. Indeed, nautical travel appears to be in his blood. At the age of seven, he snuck on board a boat jointly belonging to his uncle and father and joined them on a mission to salvage NASA booster rockets. Then later, his father introduced him to Gordon Cooper, a famous astronaut, and the pair became good friends.
In fact, starting in 1997, Miklos and Cooper collaborated on a string of projects that took them all over the Americas. They explored and recovered shipwrecks in the Caribbean. They staged expeditions to ancient ruins in southern Mexico. And they built boats in the U.S., Canada and beyond. Then, in 2004, Cooper died at the age of 77. But before he died, he apparently gifted a collection of rare treasure maps to Miklos.
Cooper, who participated in Project Mercury, became the first U.S. citizen to be televised from space. And, interestingly, part of his work for NASA involved long-range espionage. Specifically, he was assigned the task of scanning the Earth and its oceans for unusual magnetic readings that might indicate the presence of Soviet nuclear facilities. But Cooper then allegedly used that data to compile treasure maps.
Then, over four decades later, the maps formed the basis for Cooper’s Treasure – Miklos’ Discovery Channel documentary series. In the first season, the maps led Miklos to what appeared to be an anchor belonging to a Christopher Columbus vessel. And he subsequently located scores of shipwrecks – with a value of millions of dollars. However, it was during filming for the second season that Cooper’s maps led Miklos to something very different indeed.
“I investigated some of Gordon’s [Cooper’s] charts,” Miklos told the Daily Mail in August 2018. “[And] I realized that there was something else on there that [he] was referring to.” Indeed, instead of labeling this particular anomaly a shipwreck, Cooper had apparently marked it with the compelling words “unidentified object.”
But it wasn’t until Miklos got up close to the object that he reportedly realized quite how unusual it is. “It’s a formation unlike anything I’ve ever seen related to shipwreck material. It was too big for that,” he told the British newspaper. “It was also something that was completely different from anything that I’ve seen that was made by nature.”
Miklos had stumbled upon an enormous USO that resembled a “steep wall cliff,” with 15 “arms” in three groups of five. Each protrusion was, the explorer said, “the size of a gun on a battleship.” And as he explained to the Daily Mail, “I have years of experience at doing this, [and] we’ve identified multiple different types of shipwreck material. [But] this doesn’t match or look anything like that.”
The object is also covered in a dense layer of coral, which is itself something of a mystery. Scientists working for Miklos claim that reefs can’t grow in such formations on their own – and therefore that they must have formed on top of a substructure. The experts in addition say that the coral might be thousands of years old, which suggests that the structure below the waves cannot be manmade. But if that’s the case, then what could it be?
Miklos wondered if Cooper might have secretly known what it is – or at least had an inkling. As the treasure hunter told the Daily Mail, “It made sense to me why it wasn’t identified as a shipwreck [on the chart]. He [Gordon Cooper] had to mean it might be something from another world. Gordon believed in aliens. He believed that we had visitors from other planets. He also believed that a lot of these things landed in this particular part of the world.”
Certainly, Cooper professed to have sighted numerous UFOs during his career in the U.S. Air Force and was vocal in his belief in extraterrestrial phenomena. He also claimed that the U.S. government was hiding critical information about UFOs. And he believed that aliens had handed on technology to Earth governments via emissaries from other worlds.
Speaking to a United Nations panel in 1985, Cooper urged further research. “I believe that these extra-terrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet,” he said. “I feel that we need to have a top-level, coordinated program to scientifically collect and analyze data from all over the Earth concerning any type of encounter – and to determine how best to interface with these visitors in a friendly fashion.”
Of course, it is easy to dismiss Cooper’s assertions as fanciful, but Miklos, for one, believes that he was sane. “The man I knew wasn’t a whack job. He wasn’t hallucinating. And he wasn’t making things up to gain attention,” Miklos told the Daily Mail. “He was an honest, straightforward individual who only wanted to investigate and explore the possibilities of the unknown, even if it meant risking his professional career.”
But what of the history of the Bermuda Triangle itself? Well, its earliest documented mysterious event dates to the 15th century and appears to have involved a couple of UFO sightings. On his inaugural voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus was sailing through the triangle when he reportedly saw a large, fiery phenomenon crash into the sea. Then, just weeks after that, the famous explorer saw an eerie, inexplicable light off towards the horizon.
Since then, more than 2,300 people have lost their lives in the triangle in strange or unexplained circumstances. One of the most notorious cases is that of five American Grumman Avenger torpedo bombers and their total of 14 crew, all of whom disappeared on December 5, 1945, while flying over the mysterious area. A Martin Mariner flying boat with a crew of 13 was then dispatched to find the missing men – but that, too, disappeared. Could UFOs have been involved?
Many colorful theories have arisen in a bid to explain such disappearances. Indeed, one such theory even suggests that remnants of sunken technology from the lost civilization of Atlantis are to blame. However, it is quite likely that nothing mysterious is happening at all. Considering the fact that the Bermuda Triangle figures as among the world’s busiest shipping routes, the number of wrecks in the area is probably not statistically significant.
This doesn’t, however, mean that Miklos’ USO should not be investigated further. And yet much may depend on whether the Discovery Channel orders a new season of Cooper’s Treasure from AMPLE Entertainment – the production company responsible for the program. “I don’t feel like we’ve even scratched the surface of what’s in Cooper’s files,” said one of the company’s founders, Ari Mark, to the Daily Mail. “But that’s what we hope to do in a third season.”
Naturally, Miklos wants to solve the supposed mystery too. “I want to see what it is, because it may be nature-made, just a freak of nature,” he said. “But given its placement in this particular part of the Caribbean, and given what Gordon [Cooper]… told me about visitors from another planet, and the things that I’ve seen, I think it’s definitely worth investigating.”