One of the most extreme deserts in the world, these snow-free valleys harbor life

Frekish Point Dec 6, 2018

With 98% of its surface being covered in a mile-deep sheet of ice, Antarctica is the epitome of an unforgiving environment. Life is a rare occurrence in this severe climate, which is considered the driest, coldest, and windiest desert on planet Earth - but life has been found, in the most unlikely of places, and that unlikely place is the alien terrain of the McMurdo Dry Valleys.


Despite having no actual human population to speak of and only a smattering of wildlife, Antarctica is not a hopelessly barren wasteland. Between 1,000 to 5,000 people, mostly researchers and scientists, brave the hostile continent every year, inhabiting the unique “town” of McMurdo Station.


From this central hub, researchers have made groundbreaking discoveries in and around the valleys. From water samples of Blood Falls revealing microbes with metabolic processes never before witnessed to bacteria hiding from the dry winds in the interior of rocks, the valleys have changed our notion of what it takes to sustain life.


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