After drilling for two decades through more than two miles of antarctic ice, Russian scientists are on the verge of entering a vast, dark lake that hasn’t been touched by light for more than 20 million years.
Scientists are enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there but are equally worried about contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, and the potentially explosive “de-gassing” of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen…
Reaching Lake Vostok would represent the first direct contact with what scientists now know is a web of more than 200 subglacial lakes in Antarctica — some of which existed when the continent was connected to Australia and was much warmer. They stay liquid because of heat from the core of the planet.
Paging Doug McClure, Mr. McClure to the diving bell.
Until the mid-1990s, nobody knew there was a lake two miles under Antarctica’s icy Vostok Station. Now Lake Vostok is understood to hold more water than almost any other lake in the world. A decades-long Russian effort to drill through the ice and reach the water will soon be completed — if the drilling equipment holds up and the bitter cold doesn’t return early.
-Marc Kaufman << Washington Post
h/t Warren Heise