Subterranean Water Discovered In The Atacama Desert

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There is an interesting post in the Hardwear Sessions Blog today about a team of scientists who have discovered water inside a cave in the Atacama Desert in South America, widely considered the driest place on Earth.

The team, led by Dr. J. Judson Wynne, who is a cave research scientist, was actually in the Atacama to simulate the exploration of caves on Mars for future expeditions to the Red Planet. Many people believe that if life exists on Mars, it’s likely underground, and the Atacama was selected because it has many characteristics similar to that planet, including high UV levels, hyper arid conditions, and so on.

While exploring one of those caves, Wynne realized that he was walking on a muddy path, with his foot sunk to his ankle. Upon further investigation, they discovered a salt stream flow right through the cave itself. The scientist tells that they are still working to discovering how the water was deposited there.

That wasn’t the only discovery the team made in the cave either. They also came across a small cavern filled with decaying bones and skulls that have been there for hundreds of years. They’re still not sure how those bones became deposited in that cave either, with the possibilities being that the creatures were swept in by a flood or driven in by pre-historic hunters.

The discovery of water in the Atacama comes as quite a surprise. There are regions of that place where it has not rained at any time in recorded history, so you can imagine the surprise of these explorers to come across something they never thought they would see. Perhaps a scientist 50 years in the future will come across a similar discovery on Mars, and they’ll link it back to this very story.

Kraig Becker