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Lake Vostok Reached 156

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 Dave Whiteside ( 2055370 ) on Monday February 06, 2012 @10:41AM (#38941535)
    except we're more like to infect and kill anything down there :(
  • 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 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 Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Monday February 06, 2012 @11:42AM (#38942161)

    Or we could just teach the Norwegians to shoot straight, and maybe take some helicopter flying lessons.

    Bullets would have had no effect anyway. It was a lifeform based on completely separate cells which work together and could be assigned to any role needed.

    Bullets would have torn a hole in the macro shape, maybe killed a few hundred cells at the impact point, but the remaining cells would have just knitted the hole back together. The only effect bullets would have had on what was shaped like a dog would have been the momentum of the bullet causing the dog to get knocked around.

    It's why they had to resort to fire because you needed to kill the each cell individually. Poison might have worked as well.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @01:19PM (#38943493)
    Jeremy A Kaplan reported [] these guys lost. Best I can tell, he misunderstood some e-mails and ran with the story. A few other papers quoted his story, but most journalists must have know he was wrong. Funny, this story has not author listed and says,

    A brief break in communication with colleagues in the unfrozen world had some asking questions about the scientists, as Antarctica's killing winter draws near. But despite the lack of info and onset of winter, which brings temperatures as low as -80 F or colder, the team was never in danger, Priscu said.

    So, some were asking questions? Nice. Don't even mention that the only one asking questions was your own reporter running a story when the fact checking failed to confirm it. Go Fox!

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday February 06, 2012 @01:25PM (#38943577)

    You have clearly never watched one of the finest movies ever made.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 06, 2012 @03:02PM (#38944733)

    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 getting in. How it doesn't leech through the ice I don't understand. Ok, maybe freon and kerosene have particles that are larger than the gaps in crystaline structure ice and are incapable of melting it on their own... I have no idea. But I also don't understand how they plan to get a water sample... or any sample from in there, if they're expecting water to rush up and plug the hole Would they not have to literally bore through that re-freezing, shove their gathering tubes through the opening, into the water, in order to extract said water or a bottom-surface sample if they want that?

    One way or the other, I'd need to hear a damn clear explanation as to how all those chemicals will never manage to get to the water inside.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.