Kiwi scientists complete world-first mission inside Antarctica's Mt Erebus volcano

Kiwi scientists have completed a world first in a daring mission inside the crater of Mt Erebus in Antarctica.   

They've successfully extracted one of the rarest and oldest living organisms on Earth, which might hold answers to some very current problems.   

"This is discovery science at its best, it's really to discover new life under new conditions," said Waikato University professor Craig Carey, who is leading the quest. 

It is an adventure crossed with science.   

"It's the southern most active volcano, with an active lava lake in the middle and stromboli and explosions," Carey said.  

They need to use oxygen and the mountain floor is hot.   

Mt Erebus was known for the Air New Zealand crash in 1979 that killed 257 people.   

This year, it is the scene of one of Aotearoa's most advanced and adventurous scientific expeditions. The scientists are hunting some of the rarest living things on Earth.  

"We found organisms that are growing deeper into the tree and that's incredibly exciting because when we do that, we can kind of see where life came from and how it has evolved into what we see today," Carey said.  

Microbes are organisms that are too small to be seen without using a microscope and the ones inside Erebus are about as undisturbed as you get. They date back 100,000 years or more.   

"The primary purpose of this is to explore and identify mechanisms that these bacteria are using in order to live in this unique environment," Carey explained.  

A rock sample was taken off the mountain and the microbes were successfully extracted in Antarctica New Zealand's lab at Scott Base.    

The aim now is to understand how the microbes work and the powers they have to survive, which could hold answers to some of the world's biggest problems.  

It's world-leading science at the edge of the globe.