Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Russian Team Prepares To Penetrate Lake Vostok 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-soviet-russia,-lake-uhh-nevermind dept.
Lanxon writes "Lake Vostok, which has been sealed off from the world for 14 million years, is about to be penetrated by a Russian drill bit. The lake, which lies four kilometers below the icy surface of Antarctica, is unique in that it's been completely isolated from the other 150 subglacial lakes on the continent for such a long time. It's also oligotropic, meaning that it's supersaturated with oxygen — levels of the element are 50 times higher than those found in most typical freshwater lakes."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Russian Team Prepares To Penetrate Lake Vostok

Comments Filter:
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:19PM (#34795730) Journal

    I fail to see the need to drill to this lake so far below the surface. For one thing I would be worried about bringing back up who knows what with organisms and bacteria that we have not seen before that could be dangerous, also don't you think they would be contaminating this lake by drilling into it?

    From the article:

    Now, the team has satisfied the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, which safeguards the continent's environment, that it's come up with a technique to sample the lake without contaminating it. Valery Lukin told New Scientist: "Once the lake is reached, the water pressure will push the working body and the drilling fluid upwards in the borehole, and then freeze again." The next season, the team will bore into that frozen water to recover a sample whose contents can then be analysed.

    I think it's similar to this mission at Lake Ellsworth [nerc.ac.uk].

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:30PM (#34795924) Journal

    So what *are* the ramifications of releasing a large pocket of oxygen into our current atmosphere, both for us and for the lake which has been sitting isolated for 14 million years?

    Your fears are unfounded, from the article:

    Now, the team has satisfied the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, which safeguards the continent's environment, that it's come up with a technique to sample the lake without contaminating it. Valery Lukin told New Scientist: "Once the lake is reached, the water pressure will push the working body and the drilling fluid upwards in the borehole, and then freeze again." The next season, the team will bore into that frozen water to recover a sample whose contents can then be analysed.

    So they're taking the appropriate precautions there ...

    Not so much being snarky as not being a scientist and am curious. It's great that we can go anywhere that's locked away and hidden, but should we?

    The moon was "locked away" but we went there, didn't we?

    Everyone needs to relax, there's an expedition to explore Lake Ellsworth and we've already explored an ultra-oligotrophic lake named Hodgson Lake [nerc.ac.uk] and the results:

    They found... nothing. The analyses show that the Hodgson Lake water 'is one of the clearest water lakes I have ever worked on, clearer than the distilled water we use in our lab, with almost nothing in it,' says Hodgson. The samples have virtually no nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and very low measurements of other chemical elements.

    So they're going to take necessary precautions approved by a governing body and the odds are high that their results will just turn up some of the purest water we've ever seen. Of course the article notes that if they find extremophiles, it'll be a boon for studying the many protective enzymes the organisms need to live.

  • Obligatory... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:34PM (#34795974)

    Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

    A Colder War [infinityplus.co.uk]

  • by figleaf (672550) on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:45PM (#34796142) Homepage

    It just means an environment which is low in nutrients.

    The lake just happens to have high oxygen levels because of high pressure from the layers of ice - that doesn't make it oligotrophic.

  • by spopepro (1302967) on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:50PM (#34796218)

    Cool to see they have a plan for getting info without causing harm. Hopefully it all works well.

    The researchers involved on site have my respect. Here's some info about where they work:
    Ave. winter temp: -65C, ave. summer temp: -30C
    Altitude: 3488m
    Record low temp: -89C. Good thing they are at altitude, as CO2 freezing point is -78C at 1atm.
    Polar night for 130 days.

    I like science... but I don't like science that much.

  • Re:Look Up (Score:5, Informative)

    by vgerclover (1186893) on Friday January 07, 2011 @04:52PM (#34796242)
    Never drink and slashdot.
  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 07, 2011 @05:31PM (#34796890) Homepage Journal

    Was the continent ever tropical/non-icy?

    yes. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Look Up (Score:2, Informative)

    by LearnToSpell (694184) on Friday January 07, 2011 @05:43PM (#34797080) Homepage
    Would it be impolite to point out that she has accomplished far more in life than you or I have, or probably ever will?

    Only if you consider corrupt politicians to be role models for accomplishment...
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday January 07, 2011 @05:43PM (#34797082) Homepage

    I fail to see the need to drill to this lake so far below the surface. For one thing I would be worried about bringing back up who knows what with organisms and bacteria that we have not seen before that could be dangerous, also don't you think they would be contaminating this lake by drilling into it?

    Any bacteria or other organism that are alive down there have spent the last 14 million years adapting to that environment.

    It is a near certainty that they would find our bodies to be a completely inhospitable environment.

    The dangerous bacteria are the ones that are adapted to human bodies -- or close enough bodies that it's only a small jump to humans. There are many, many viruses and bacteria that infect mammals but are incapable of reproducing inside our bodies. Antarctic under-ice lake bacteria? No chance.

NOWPRINT. NOWPRINT. Clemclone, back to the shadows again. - The Firesign Theater

Working...