Rumors have been in the air for days, but we now think it confirmed that Russian Scientsts have penetrated the liquid part of Antarctica’s Lake Vostok. The lake has been frozen over for something like 20 million years. Certainly there was life in it at the time. Is any of it still there? Has something new evolved? Just as interesting is question of paleoclimate data preserved, we hope, in the sediments at the bottom of the lake. The top section of the lake’s bottom probably contains sediments that have formed over the last 20 million years, in the ice-bound southern lake, but below that will be sediments reflecting the regional and global biological conditions and climate for a long period of time before ice-over.
The upper sediment will come from erosion from the lake’s sub-ice shoreline, mostly chemical in nature, settling of the finest of clays that would have been in the water at the time the ice covered the lake, but mostly, I suspect, a combination of re-settled light minerals moved by currents that may or may not have been operating there and biological materials from whatever may or may not have been living in the water.
BBC broke the news (more or less) with this:
Russian scientists are reporting success in their quest to drill into Lake Vostok, a huge body of liquid water buried under the Antarctic ice.
It is the first time such a breakthrough has been made into one of the more than 300 sub-glacial lakes known to exist on the White Continent.
Researchers believe Vostok can give them some fresh insights into the frozen history of Antarctica.
They also hope to find microbial lifeforms that are new to science.
“This fills my soul with joy,” said Valery Lukin, from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in St Petersburg, which has been overseeing the project,
“This will give us the possibility to biologically evaluate the evolution of living organisms… because those organisms spent a long time without contact with the atmosphere, without sunlight,” he was quoted as saying in a translation of national media reports by BBC Monitoring.
Shortly after this transmission communications with the distant research camp were cut off but just before that a large vegetable like humanoid was seen approaching the scientist’s webcam.
Sheril Kirshenbaum notes:
… exploring Vostok is not that simple. We know it has high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen so there is the potential of explosively “de-gassing” the lake. There’s also concern over contamination due to bacteria and drilling fluids on the way in.
We are watching with great anticipation.