Two and a half miles beneath Antarctica‘s ice lies Lake Vostok, a mysterious body of water, 160 miles long and 30 miles wide, that is believed to have been sealed off from the rest of the world for 20 million years.
Now, the Russians, who run the Vostok research station at the surface, say they may have reached the lake with a drill bit, though they are still checking their data. The plan was for the drill to break through the ice into the hidden lake, and automatically withdraw so as not to contaminate the water below.
How did you spend your summer holidays? It’s the middle of summer there, in the Cold Zone, the coldest spot on earth. Summer temperatures are a mere -40. In winter it can get down to -129°F!!!
Lake Vostok, seen so far only on radar, is believed to be warmed by geothermal energy. But why drill to it, beyond feeling the tug of mystery?
“According to our research, the quantity of oxygen there exceeds that on other parts of our planet by 10 to 20 times. Any life forms that we find are likely to be unique on Earth,” said Sergey Bulat, the chief scientist of Russia’s Antarctic Expedition, as quoted by Russian Reporter magazine.
There are other scientists who are doubtful. Too much oxygen, they argue, could actually be toxic to life. So Lake Vostok could turn out to be unique — the first place found on Earth where there is water in liquid form but nothing living.
These are the same bunch of guys who were out of radio contact for the past 5 days. Guess they were just too busy to chat.
Earlier, worry mounted as days passed without word from the scientists on whether or not they had managed to drill deep enough to reach the surface of the lake. The drilling expedition, which has been ongoing for 14 years, took place under brutal, life-threatening weather conditions, including temperatures well below zero.
“Yesterday, our scientists stopped drilling at the depth of 3,768 meters and reached the surface of the sub-glacial lake,” the [official Russian science news] source said.
A further statement in Russian, translated by Google:
Today, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute has received the following official statement from the chief station of the East 57th RAE AM Yelagin and Chief glaciological-drilling detachment of the 57th NI RAE Vasiliev.
February 5 at 20.25 Moscow time on the Russian Antarctic station Vostok inland event occurred, which is kept waiting in suspense the last few months, the international scientific community and many local and foreign mass media: experts glaciological-drilling detachment of the 57th Russian Antarctic Expedition was committed penetration in a relict subglacial Lake Vostok water through deep ice borehole 5G. On the eve of February 4, at around 3766 m depth of the well there was a contact drill with a water lens. Evidence of this was the lower portion of the ice core recovered from this depth - the surface of the lower 70 cm of core was otglazirovana as if in front of the lift, he was immersed in water. However, no channels or capillaries in the body core is not visually observed. It is this contact with the lens in the well water was mistakenly perceived by some media for real insight into the aqueous layer of the lake.
Concerns about polluting the lake with the freon/kerosene drilling fluid were unfounded, the Russians say:
Less dense than lake water, drilling fluid, consisting of a mixture of kerosene and Freon, was rapidly up the borehole. As a result, about one and a half cubic meters of liquid poured through the top surface of the wells in special trays installed in the drilling complex, and then it rolled back into the barrel. Thus, the theoretically predicted 11 years ago, the results have been fully proven in practice.
So it seems a job well done! The hole was capped off for now, and the scientists will be back next year to get some water samples and see what is to be seen.
This achievement of Russian polar researchers and engineers has been a wonderful gift for the Day of Russian science, which our country celebrates on 8 February.
Head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition
Is banner day for Russian Sciences!! Da darlink, but what about moose and squirrel??
Over at The Register they take this story to the next level. Because, let’s face it, you were thinking along the same lines. Isolated research team out of touch for nearly a week. Science going where man may have never gone before. It’s like the opening scene of some sci-fi horror movie, and that means just two possibilities: Nazis or parasitic evil Space Aliens!!!
The flurry of activity on the ice-bound continent has also excited some Second World War conspiracy theorists and history buffs, who theorise that the Nazis had a secret base on Antarctica built back in the 1930s. According to Russian newswire RIA Novosti, back in 1943, Grand Admiral Karl Dontiz was quoted as saying that “Germany’s submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuhrer on the other end of the world”.
The secret hideout is believed to have been constructed at Lake Vostok and could contain old Nazi archives. Nazi naval archives claim that after the Germans surrendered in 1945, a submarine U-530 arrived at the South Pole, where they built an ice cave and stored relics from the Third Reich and Hitler’s secret files.
If boffins’ dreams come true, then the creatures that lived in these lakes way back could have found unique ways to evolve and survive beneath the ice, giving science a whole raft of new things to study and providing pointers as to how aliens could be living on relatively inhospitable planets.
Which naturally leads some to worry about what might be down there. Apart from prehistoric monsters, parasitic aliens or other monstrosities from the fertile imaginations of TV and movie writers, there are the more realistic fears that undiscovered and potentially lethal viruses and bacteria could be lurking in the deep.
Cue the ominous music! Send the black guy down first!
Actually, Godzilla is still sleeping. So is Mothra. The biggest concern is the possible contamination of Vostok from the chemicals used to drill to it. Notably kerosene.
Send them DVD’s of John Carpenter’s “The Thing”....
Try to be serious, and there’s always a TimO in the pack! Hell, I’ve never seen that movie. Is it any good?