Russian Team Prepares To Penetrate Lake Vostok
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Summary

January 7, 2011:

An article from Wired.co.uk tells how a group of Russian scientists are trying to drill down to an enormous lake located underneath the ice of Antarctica. The lake is located underneath the Vostok research base and lies some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) beneath the surface of the ice. There are other subglacial lakes beneath the Antarctic icecap, but scientists estimate that this one has been completely sealed off from the rest of the world for something like 14 million years. It is believed to be the third largest lake in the world.

Camp Vostok was originally established by the Soviets at the South Magnetic Pole in 1958. Since then the Magnetic Pole has drifted from that location; but scientists drilling for deep core samples at the base in the early 1990s found a change in the ice crystals about two miles down, suggesting that they had reached the roof of a huge subglacial body of water. Satellite imagery confirmed the existance of a gigantic lake beneath the ice.

Because the water of this lake has been completely isolated for so long, scientists want to drill all the way down to sample it. What they find could tell us much about the early development of the earth. There may even be life in the ancient ecosystem.

But the project is not without controversy. The Russians filled the drill-hole with kerosene and freon to prevent it from freezing shut, and some other scientists fear that this will contaminate the lake once they break through. The Russian team say that they are taking care to prevent this, and that the water pressure from the lake will prevent contaminants from seeping in. Other experts worry that the pressure in the lake, (seeing as it has 4km of ice on top of it) might be so great that the waters of Lake Vostok will erupt like a tremendous geyser.

As of early February, the Russian scientists have about 100 feet left to drill, but only a few days left to do it. The end of the Antarctic summer means that the crew will soon have to leave the base until next year.

Source

Game and Story Use

  • Lake Vostok has been sealed off from the rest of the world for 14 million years. What will we find hidden in its depths?
  • If the U.S. thinks something important is down there and wants to get there first, it could have, (heh heh), Cold War implications.
    • Yes, that pun was neccessary, thank you.
    • Hmm… Camp Vostok was established the same year that the U.S. Navy started Project ELF. Coincidence…?
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