Monday, February 6, 2012
And You Thought Fiji Water Was Expensive
MOSCOW — A Russian team has succeeded in drilling through four kilometres (2.5 miles) of ice to the surface of a mythical subglacial Antarctic lake which could hold as yet unknown life forms, reports said Monday.
Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica and scientists want to study its eco-system which has been isolated for hundreds of thousands of years under the ice in the hope of finding previously unknown microbiological life forms.
"Our scientists completed drilling at a depth of 3,768 metres and reached the surface of the subglacial lake," an unnamed source told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
Sergei Lesenkov, spokesman for the Arctic and Antarctic Scientific Research Institute, told AFP in Moscow that there was the possibility of a "fundamental scientific development".
Lesenkov said that analysis of the composition of gas bubbles discovered in the ice above the lake could help climate change research.
"Because the lower layer was formed 400,000 years ago, from the composition of the gas it is possible to judge the gas composition in the atmosphere 400,000 years ago and during the time that has passed since the formation of the lake," he said.
Exploring environments such as Lake Vostok would allow scientists to discover what life forms can exist in the most extreme conditions and thus whether life could exist on some other bodies in the solar system.
The Russian researchers intend to start drilling again and obtain water samples from the lake for analysis in December after a ten-month break due to harsh weather conditions.
The hidden lakes of the Antarctic are seen as one of the final frontiers in exploring the Earth and several teams from other nations are also engaged in similar projects.
There is still controversy over the methods used by Russia, with Western scientists expressing concern that the kerosene that has been used to prevent freezing ice from closing the borehole risks contaminating samples.
Siegert will lead a mission next year to drill into another subglacial lake in west Antarctica called Lake Ellsworth, using a different technique called hot-water drilling.
In related news, Ozarka is still using the pristine Fort Worth municipal water supply.