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Lake Vostok Reached 156

Posted by samzenpus
from the say-hello-to-the-elder-things dept.
First time accepted submitter Cyberax writes "After 30 years of drilling and weeks of media attention the Antarctic underground lake Vostok has been reached by Russian scientists (translated article). Deep drilling in the vicinity of Vostok Station in Antarctica began in the 1970s, when the existence of the reservoir was not yet known. Scientists are beginning paleoclimatic studies and further exploration of the lake will continue in 2013-2014."
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Lake Vostok Reached

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  • by Trilkk (2007802) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:35AM (#38941465)

    Expecting a lone husky to be seen escaping the facility in 2 days time.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:35AM (#38941473) Journal
    It turns out that the microbiological conditions of ancient lake Vostok are strikingly similar to those of early 21st century drilling mud.

    The timeline altering implications of this discovery will keep scientists busy for decades!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As far as I know they have gone to extreme lengths to avoid contamination of the water. I know they stopped just before reaching the water to let the hole freeze behind them for one thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        How is that extreme? Did they fill the hole with Mountain Dew?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Umm... you may want to read the controversies about this on Wikipedia's page on Lake Vostok.

        Everyone's been screaming at the Russians that they're contaminating everything by using freon and kerosene in the borehole to keep it from freezing over again. 60 tons of that crap has been dumped into that borehole. TONS. They have literally filled the bore-hole with kerosene.

        The Russians' defense is that when they break through, water will rush up, re-freeze, and plug the borehole to avoid any contaminants gett

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          a) the method was tested and shown to not contaminate the water, that's why drilling was allowed to proceed
          b) they'll probably extract kerns of ice after freezing.

          Russian news site [eco.ria.ru] says:

          The lake might be absolutely sterile. At this moment, drilling passed 173 meters through the ice formed from the lake water. But examining lake kerns has shown no more than 2-3 cells per milliliter, and even those cells could have gotten into samples while transported or in the lab

          • by sl149q (1537343)

            From wikipedia:

            Measuring 250 km (160 mi) long by 50 km (30 mi) wide at its widest point, and covering an area of 15,690 km2 (6,060 sq mi), it is similar in area to Lake Ontario, but with over three times the volume. The average depth is 344 m (1,129 ft). It has an estimated volume of 5,400 km3 (1,300 cu mi).[4] The lake is divided into two deep basins by a ridge. The liquid water over the ridge is about 200 m (700 ft), compared to roughly 400 m (1,300 ft) deep in the northern basin and 800 m (2,600 ft) deep

    • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:01AM (#38941737) Journal

      Was there ever any compromise on their drilling procedure?

      My understanding was that the Russians were using a method that was likely to cause contamination, despite pleas by western agencies for them to either a) hold off until better tech was developed or b) funding was established to allow them to use (donated) already-developed tech from the west that would be less contaminating?

      I'd guess since this is happening roughly according to their original schedule, the answer is "no" which would be tragic.

      • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:09AM (#38941815)

        Nope. The lake had almost been reached in 1998 but drilling was stopped to ensure that there would be no contamination. Several years were spent to devise a good solution for the problem of contamination. So the drilling has been resumed only in 2005 when the international community decided that it's safe enough.

        They're using a well filled with kerosene and freon to keep bacterial contamination away. Also, they're using sterilized parts without grease to minimize places where bacteria could hide.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:11AM (#38941837)

        Was there ever any compromise on their drilling procedure?

        My understanding was that the Russians were using a method that was likely to cause contamination, despite pleas by western agencies for them to either a) hold off until better tech was developed or b) funding was established to allow them to use (donated) already-developed tech from the west that would be less contaminating?

        I'd guess since this is happening roughly according to their original schedule, the answer is "no" which would be tragic.

        According to the Google translation of the article the drilling was put on hold while the technology was developed at the St. Petersburg Institute. Western nations approved the Russian proposals after that at a 2003 meeting.

        So to answer you, the answer is "yes" which is not tragic.

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      RTFA, they stopped the drilling for a dozen years, with 130 meters left, just to develop technologies to prevent such contamination.
    • by Lashat (1041424)

      Contamination of the water has been a concern and apparently according to TFA it has been addressed.
      "Scientific research drilling in the area started in 1989 and the lake's existence was confirmed in 1996. But efforts to reach its surface were suspended two years later amid fears that the process could contaminate the waters.

      After developing new techniques in an attempt to ease environmental concerns, attempts to drill down through the deep ice sheet to the lake's surface resumed."

  • or whatever monster is lurking down there... well at least according to the movies I have seen :p

  • According to the Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2095193/Lake-Vostok-Russian-scientists-drilling-alien-Antarctic-lake-buried-20m-years.html) this morning, the Russian team has been out of contact for a week. An American scientist says they're probably just busy. Busy incubating aliens, more likely.
  • Awaiting the first youtube videos...
  • Obligatory. (Score:2, Funny)

    by IronHalik (1568993)
    Suddenly, deadly bacteria/frozen alien/frozen robotic alien/frozen goo-like mind control alien.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gmuslera (3436) *
      Or worse, sheeple [xkcd.com]!
  • by larys (2559815) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:43AM (#38941559)
    and how so few people/countries seem to be taking lifestyle-changing action against it, they wasted 30 years when in a few years or so, they might have the ice melt enough for them to reach the lake by just tapping on a thin sheet of it with the back of a pencil...
  • Stargate? (Score:5, Funny)

    by HiChris! (999553) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:49AM (#38941609)
    Did they find the Stargate yet? or the weapons platform?
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      which would explain the lake. the heat from the ZPM's would be keeping the ice melted around the facility.

      • by Lanforod (1344011)
        ZPM's don't produce heat unless powering a heat source. Thought that'd be obvious from the way they can be handled with bare hands.
        No reason to believe it/they would be powering anything right now.
  • by pecosdave (536896) * on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:09AM (#38941813) Homepage Journal

    How do we know this lake isn't connected to an underground river that could easily wash modern biology in and out?

    • by pz (113803) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:17AM (#38941903) Journal

      Or, just as short-sighted (and more common) is the idea that somehow that bit of matter got stuck in time and has remained impervious to the forces of random genetic mutation and evolution through the intervening years. Same idea comes across when we land on some asteroid, or explore some new bit of Mars, and loudly declare that it is a sample of matter left over from the birth of the solar system, or some such huey, as if it popped through a portal in time. The forces of nature still act on such things, even if they've been isolated from more large-scale interactions.

      Lake Vostok might (we think) have been sealed off for a very long time, but that doesn't mean it's a glimpse into the past, but, rather, a glimpse into a different version of the present.

      • by Lashat (1041424)

        I agree with your assesment with one addition if i may.

        " a glimpse into a RADICALLY different version of the present."

      • by thrich81 (1357561) on Monday February 06, 2012 @12:36PM (#38942913)

        On the other hand, the rate of change of some systems is significantly slower than for many other systems. The obvious example is comparing the surface of the moon to the surface of the earth -- the earth had at least the same cratering events as the moon but the moon still displays a surface similar to what it was 2 billion or more years ago. Yes the surface of the moon is the present day surface but unlike the earth it is little changed and so is a good replica of the moon in the past. Geologically the same goes for those asteroids, Mars, etc. and biologically for Lake Vostok and many other isolated biological environments -- there is less competition and influx of new "innovations" from the larger outside world on the organisms there so the biologists say that the living things there have changed less than those in more open environments. The present is not the past but some places in the present are a lot like the past, indistinguishably so.

      • by Verteiron (224042) on Monday February 06, 2012 @01:10PM (#38943343) Homepage

        The goal here is not to see any living organisms there as a portal to the past. It is to see any organisms who have manged to survive in an airless, water-filled lake buried under 3 miles of ice for millions of years. It is fairly likely that, if there are any living organisms there, they're going to have evolved in some pretty interesting ways.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        While I agree with your point about biology - living things strongly couple to each other in remarkably complex ways - asteroids and debris on the rocky planets are (compared to Earth) completely pristine due to the inertness of their environment, and the processes they are subject to are blissfully easy to model and use in interpretation.

      • Lake Vostok might (we think) have been sealed off for a very long time, but that doesn't mean it's a glimpse into the past, but, rather, a glimpse into a different version of the present.

        That is very true; however, if the environment of Lake Vostok hasn't changed in x eons (and it likely hasn't under all that ice) then environmental causes for evolution won't have occurred. It is changes in the environment that cause most "directional" evolution. Without that all you have after a while is random genetic drift. Physically cockroaches look the same today as they did millions of years ago because they are a pretty darn good-design that can't be improved upon for any of the environments that

        • Physically cockroaches look the same today as they did millions of years ago because they are a pretty darn good-design that can't be improved upon for any of the environments that have come and gone since.

          While their carapaces may look the same there could be (and probably are) many substantial changes at the cellular and/or organ level.

          • It is possible- but if the cockroach reached an optimal design for it's niche a million years ago- then the pressure would be to avoid change.

            Chances are the cockroach has changed in minor ways- because their environment has. But the fact is- they were near perfect design for the niche to begin with- they haven't had to change much.

            Same with Vostok- if an organism is of near perfect design for that environment- they could very well stay more-or-less the same for billions of years. Any derivitive from the

            • Chances are the cockroach has changed in minor ways- because their environment has. But the fact is- they were near perfect design for the niche to begin with- they haven't had to change much.

              We know only that their gross skeletal anatomy has not changed much. At the cellular level they may have changed quite a lot due to environmental changes such as new viruses, bacteria, and environmental toxins.

              Same with Vostok- if an organism is of near perfect design for that environment- they could very well stay

      • The forces of nature still act on such things, even if they've been isolated from more large-scale interactions.

        Yes, but being isolated like that, it would never have heard of the force of nature known as Justin Bieber. And would have to search hard for a piece of undergarment to throw at it.

    • by jackbird (721605)

      Because McElligot's Pool is near Sneeden's Hotel and State Highway 203, not the middle of Antarctica.

    • The lake is at sea level and tests confirm that it's unsalinated. If there was any water flow, it would have to be bidirectional which would introduce sea water (else no biology could "wash in"). Plus, under-ice mapping confirms that it's cut off from any other water.

      Virg
  • by Thuktun (221615) on Monday February 06, 2012 @01:52PM (#38943895) Homepage Journal

    How long until we get Vostok(tm) bottled water in the grocery store?

ASCII a stupid question, you get an EBCDIC answer.

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