Russia drills to lake under Antarctica

2012-02-08 21:16

kalahari.com

Moscow - After more than two decades of drilling, Russian scientists have reached the surface of a gigantic freshwater lake in Antarctica that had been hidden under miles of ice for 20 million years, potentially holding life from the distant past and a clue to the search for life on other planets.

Reaching Lake Vostok is a major discovery avidly anticipated by scientists around the world hoping that it may allow a glimpse into microbial life forms that existed before the Ice Age. It may also provide precious material that would help look for life on ice-crust moons of Jupiter and Saturn or under Mars' polar ice caps where conditions could be similar.

Valery Lukin, the head of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in charge of the mission, said in Wednesday's statement that his team reached the lake's surface on Sunday.

"There is no other place on Earth that has been in isolation for more than 20 million years," Lev Savatyugin, a researcher with the AARI who was involved in preparing the mission, told The Associated Press. "It's a meeting with the unknown."

Savatyugin said that scientists hope to find primeval bacteria that could expand the human knowledge of the origins of life. "We need to see what we have here before we send missions to ice-crust moons, like Jupiter's moon Europa," he said.

The project, however, has drawn strong fears that 60 tons of lubricants and antifreeze used in the drilling may contaminate the pristine lake.

The Russian researchers have insisted that the bore would only slightly touch the lake's surface and a surge in pressure will send the water rushing up the shaft where it will freeze, immediately sealing out the toxic chemicals.

Lukin said in a statement that about 1.5m³ of kerosene and freon poured into tanks on the surface from the boreshaft, prove that the lake water streamed from beneath, froze, and blocked the hole.

The scientists will later remove the frozen sample for analysis in December when the next Antarctic summer comes.

Lake Vostok, about 3.8km beneath the surface, is the largest in a web of nearly 400 known subglacial lakes in Antarctica, and scientists in other nations hope to follow up with similar projects. The lake is 250km long and 50km across at its widest point, similar in area to Lake Ontario.

"In the simplest sense, it can transform the way we think about life," Nasa's chief scientist Waleed Abdalati told The Associated Press by email.

Scientists believe that microbial life may exist in the dark depths of the lake despite high pressure and constant cold - conditions similar to those expected to be found under ice crust on Mars, Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's move Enceladus.

- AP

Read more on:    russia  |  antarctica  |  research
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Goodwood - 11:27 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Both Ways
    DELAYS approaching Voortrekker Road
  • Wednesday Brackenfell - 10:44 AM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    ROADWORKS - left lane closed at the R300 Highway - DELAYS
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

DSTV Mobile iDrifta

The iDrifta is a plug and play mobile DVB-H receiver...

From R99.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is always easier to look out and see what needs changing. Looking in is a lot harder... Today you may need to look at what...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.