Russian scientists claim to have successfully drilled through two miles of glacial ice to reach Lake Vostok, buried under Antarctica for 14 million years.
Russia’s news agency Ria Novosti was reporting on February 6 that scientists had reached the lake, but that was not corroborated by Russian authorities until February 8.
After a couple of days of uncertainty, Valery Lukin, the director of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, released a statement quoted by The New York Times from A.M. Yelagin, chief of the Vostok Research Station, saying that the drill contacted the lake water 12,366 feet down. The pressurized lake water shot up the bore hole for 100 to 130 feet, which pushed the drilling fluid out of contact with the untouched waters beneath, Yelagin’s statement said. It froze, plugging the hole and thus preventing contamination, The Times said. Scientists will have to wait until the next Antarctic season to take actual water samples.
“For me, the discovery of this lake is comparable with the first flight into space,” Lukin told the Interfax News Agency, according to The Times. “By technological complexity, by importance, by uniqueness.”
Based on the truism that where there’s water, there’s potential life, researchers are hoping to learn more about this subterranean lake that is among the last unexplored frontiers of Mother Earth. Moreover it may actually resemble another largely unexplored frontier, the solar system.
“The conditions in Lake Vostok are thought to be similar to the conditions on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus,” Wired UK reports. “In June, NASA probe Cassini found the best evidence yet for a massive saltwater reservoir beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. This all means that finding life in the inhospitable depths of Vostok would strengthen the case for life in the outer solar system.”
Even the music world has taken notice, with British rock group Fanfarlo releasing a new song in honor of the event, “Vostok, I Know You Are Waiting,” which you can listen to at The NJ Underground.
The video accounts below give a good overview of what is to be gained, and potentially lost, by breaching this ancient body of water.