Russian Team To Drill Heretofore Untouched Antartic Lake
Russian team prepares to penetrate Lake Vostok
By Duncan Geere07 January 11
Lake Vostok, which has been sealed off from the world for 14 million years, New Scientist Olivier Dessibourg, is about to be penetrated by a Russian drill bit. The lake, which lies four kilometres below the icy surface of Antarctica, is unique in that it’s been completely isolated from the other 150 subglacial lakes here, on the continent for such a long time. It’s also oligotropic, here, meaning that it’s supersaturated with oxygen — levels of the element are 50 times higher than those found in most typical freshwater lakes…………………..
…………………… Since 1990, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute here, in St Petersberg in Russia has been drilling through the ice to reach the lake, but fears of contamination of the ecosystem in the lake have stopped the process multiple times, most notably in 1998 when the drills were turned off for almost eight years……………………Time is short, however. It’s possible that the drillers won’t be able to reach the water before the end of the current Antarctic summer, and they’ll need to wait another year before the process can continue.
When the sample can be recovered, however, it’s hoped that it’ll shed light on extremophiles — lifeforms that survive in extreme environments. Life in Lake Vostok would need adaptions to the oxygen-rich environment, which could include high concentrations of protective enzymes. The conditions in Lake Vostok are very similar to the conditions on Europa and Enceladus, so could also strengthen the case for extraterrestrial life, here.
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