IMAGE 1: WhillansGZ_Gravel_beds Caption: This picture shows ancient marine sediments frozen onto the bed of the ice sheet. Project paleontologist, Prof. Reed Scherer (NIU), found in samples of these sediments shells of microscopic marine diatom fossils. This suggests that the ice sheet is eroding sediments that have been laid down in this marine basin when climate was much warmer than today. Remnant organic matter from these sediments may help feed the modern ecosystem that we found thriving beneath ice. Organic remains old life may be an important source of nutrients here. (Image credit: Deep-SCINI UNL-Andrill SMO).
IMAGE 2: WhillansGZ_Fish2 Caption: Fish swimming over a bed of angular gravel. The gravel and smaller sediments covering this seafloor fall out of the base of the melting ice sheet that is located here about 30 feet above the seafloor. We observed in the several hours of taking this video a number of gravels and many smaller fragments falling down on the seafloor. This may be why benthic life (e.g. sea stars, sponges, urchins) has not established itself on this seafloor because it would be pelted by the rock fragments falling from above. However, fish are agile enough to avoid these projectiles as they take advantage of these seemingly desert-like feeding grounds. (Image credit: Deep-SCINI UNL-Andrill SMO).