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June 26, 2007

Robots Looking for Life

Going where we can't, robots are being deployed in the quest to learn more about life in the arctic ice:

The Gakkel Ridge, encased under the frozen Arctic Ocean, is steep and rocky, and scientists suspect its remote location hosts an array of undiscovered life.

Researchers hope newly developed robots will give them their first look at the mysterious ridge between Greenland and Siberia.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod plan to begin a 40-day expedition of the ridge on July 1. They plan to use the robots to navigate and map terrain and sample life found near a series of underwater hot springs.

The leader of the expedition says that this is "almost like going to Australia for the first time." Like Australia, the arctic hot-springs environment is isolated from the rest of the world, and promises to yield up some new creatures unlike anything discovered before.

Here's hoping the robots hold out under the severe conditions. They look pretty sturdy.

arcticrobot.jpg

More on recent biological discoveries here.