The Real Science Behind The Atlas Fracture

A recent article in the New York Times Science section described an American expedition to drill into a lake beneath the Antarctic ice cap. This effort neatly parallels the effort by the character Dr. Taylor Crandee in my novel The Atlas Fracture to drill into a subglacial lake called Lake Donatella. By the way, I promise the real-life Antarctic lake drilling effort is not a publicity stunt to promote my book (although the timing is excellent!).

The actual expedition is called the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) project. It will drill down into Lake Whillans, a body of liquid water a half a mile below the surface of the Antarctic ice. The plan is to bring up water samples and analyze then on the spot for signs of microbial life. There could be strange, unusual and even dangerous forms of bacteria, viruses and who knows what else. 

The WISSARD expedition had to travel more than 625 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf to reach the location of the subglacial lake. Drilling through ice requires some gear, so more than 13 Sno-cats and tractors were used to haul equipment and to the site.

In The Atlas Fracture, Dr. Crandee and his team use a similar hot water drill to melt their way into a lake located at the edge of the TransAntarctic Mountains. Dr. Crandee is convinced that volcanic heat from the mountains is providing a perfect environment for exotic microbial life. When he and his team succeed in bringing samples of this biologically rich water to the surface, the results are not what most in the team expect, however, and the effects felt all the way to Washington, D.C.

Watch for The Atlas Fracture, the next installment in the Perry Helion thriller series, available soon.



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