Antarctica is of great interest to scientists as it is a totally unspoilt landscape where they can study the effects of climate change. Since 2006, researchers from Germany, Italy, New Zealand and the US have been drilling through ice, water and rock to recover core samples in a programme known as the Antarctic Drilling Project (ANDRIL). David Harwood, who is part of the team scanning the icy continent, says he made an amazing find in the eastern region.
It was revealed during NOVA’s “Secrets of Antarctica” how the discovery of wood and leaves has helped researcher to map out the frozen desert’s past.
The narrator explained in 2015: “300 miles away [from base], there appears to be a completely different picture [of Antarctica].
“Exploring East Antarctica – and closer to the South Pole – ANDRILL’s David Harwood found leaf fossil and pieces of wood.
“Surprisingly, according to Harwood, these date back to a relatively recent time, when Antarctica was not only warmer than today, but there were plants and trees.”
The series spoke to Dr Harwood who claimed the pieces of wood dated back millions of years.
He said: “This is a piece of southern beach.
“This wood is not fossilised in the sense that if it is petrified it could still burn.
“To find the wood and leaves together is pretty phenomenal, it’s really phenomenal for Antarctica.
“It dates back to a period of about 4 million years ago.”
It’s not the last amazing find uncovered during the show, though.
ANDRILL scientists also dug deep below the surface to take ice core samples and reveal their results to viewers.
The narrator detailed one of particular interest.
He said: “They recover a 12-foot length of core wrapped in a protective cover.
“Workers carefully take it back to the lab to be examined, when they crack it open, it’s in perfect condition.
“This mud and rock is more valuable than gold because each core is a time machine.
“As the cores are recovered, each section is sliced
“Each core tells a story depending on its texture, colour and contents.
“These shells are evidence of warmer times, even as Antarctica is icing up.”
Marco Taviani, from the Institute of Marine Science, Italy, detailed the amazing discovery they made.
He said: “This is one of the most spectacular fossils found using ANDRILL incision.
“This is a scallop – now this type of scallop simply do not live in extreme polar waters.”