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Subglacial Lake Vostok
August 10, 2007 1:02 PM   Subscribe

A large freshwater lake lies under the Antarctic ice. Russian researchers bored a hole in the ice, almost all the way down to Lake Vostok, before complying with requests that they stop. The lake has been isolated under 4km of ice for at least 500,000 years, and could be irreversibly contaminated if the Russians' drill breaks through to the liquid. There may be life in the cold, highly-oxygenated water of the lake. Confident that they can reach the lake safely, the Russians have resumed drilling.
posted by Kirth Gerson (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's very nice, my summer house is there. Hopefully this doesn't kick off some stupid tourist craze though, I'll barely be able to get my goddamn jet ski around...
posted by baphomet at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2007


Confident that they can reach the lake safely, the Russians have resumed drilling.

Of course they have. How else are they going to compete with Fiji water?
posted by shmegegge at 1:06 PM on August 10, 2007


That last link say they stopped because the drill got stuck, not because they were complying with requests to stop.
posted by zeoslap at 1:08 PM on August 10, 2007


"As requested, the Russians temporarily suspended their drilling efforts pending further study. Their borehole– which was filled with sixty tons of kerosene and freon to prevent re-freezing– stopped within a mere 300 feet of the lake surface."
posted by hal9k at 1:13 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've got a bad feeling about this.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 1:13 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


"As requested, the Russians temporarily suspended their drilling efforts pending further study. Their borehole– which was filled with sixty tons of kerosene and freon to prevent re-freezing– stopped within a mere 300 feet of the lake surface."

How can they NOT contaminate the lake?
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:17 PM on August 10, 2007


They only drill at the height of Summer (because it's too cold there in Winter). The last link is describing what happened at the end of the last drilling season, in January. The halt as requested was back in the '90s. The resumption of drilling seems to have begun in 2005.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:19 PM on August 10, 2007


So, do I put my money on prehistoric super-virus, frozen Thing, or Elder Gods?
posted by sourwookie at 1:23 PM on August 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


Did they not see The Thing?
posted by quin at 1:23 PM on August 10, 2007


I'm all for this. If they find new forms of life in the lake it will be really cool. If they contaminate the lake, well, I can't see how that would affect anything beyond the lake, especially if it's sterile. If they release a Superbug that destroys humanity, that's cool too because the planet is better off without us frankly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I only read the last link before posting... Odd they wouldn't use the cryobot instead of their contaminated hole. I mean why not?
posted by zeoslap at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2007


On one hand, I admire the sheer hubris of the attempt, on the other, I think this is a really bad idea.
posted by drezdn at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2007


Apparently the lake overlies an extension of Russia's continental shelf.
posted by Flashman at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2007 [10 favorites]


Yeah, and as soon as they reach the bottom they're going to plant the flag.

The Cryobot still seems the safest bet - if they don't want to leave it to the Americans, why not cooperate? Anyone know if the Russians have a similar plan with the self-cleaning probe etc.?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:27 PM on August 10, 2007


I've got a bad feeling about this.

So did Professor William Dyer.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:27 PM on August 10, 2007


We've fucked up everything else on the planet. Why stop now?
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:43 PM on August 10, 2007


I don't know. I don't want to sound too much like Jeff Goldbloom here...but when something just innately feels like a bad idea, probably best to leave it alone.
posted by Roman Graves at 1:46 PM on August 10, 2007


They will be sorry when they break through into the hollow earth, with the dinosaurs and the fire and the screaming.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:46 PM on August 10, 2007 [7 favorites]


Agreed, this sounds like the beginning to a Japanese horror movie, Michael Crichton novel, Edgar Rice Burroughs fantasy or an old X-Files episode.

I can't help wondering if they will find anything.
posted by misha at 1:50 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


$500 says Jesus lives down there.
posted by The Straightener at 1:51 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


(A giant albino penguin to his wife, as he leaves his home hole in the subice colony shelf, grabbing some Mylanta and the flexi leash for Shoggy:)

"Thelma, don't wait up for me tonight, me and the boys are going to try that new Russian place!"
posted by Iosephus at 1:57 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


In the news today, Russian researchers successfully reached Lake Vostok. Preliminary analysis shows that the glacial lake consists, curiously, of a colloidal mixture of water, freon, and kerosene.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:58 PM on August 10, 2007 [7 favorites]


Fools! They don't know what they've done!
posted by Kikkoman at 2:04 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Considering that the lake has toxic levels of oxygen, if life is discovered, it must contain powerful antioxidants. Surely the Russians plan on concentrating these microbes and selling them to yuppies at outrageous markups as a miracle antarctic anti-aging serum.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen who are reading and or geography impared.

Antarctica is in the Southern Hemisphere and is _not_ connected to Russia in any way shape or form, mostly due to being on the other side of the planet from Russia and any former Russian territories. Thank you.

And second, GWAR live in Antarctica, thus they will stumble upon Odorous' Cuttlefish of C'thullu's demonic hellspawn, which is the only possible form of life that can live in those enviornments. Please learn your Alien Overlord histories.
posted by daq at 2:16 PM on August 10, 2007 [3 favorites]


The water from this lake will be used to make vodka that sells in Las Vegas for $200 a bottle; it quickly usurps Grey Goose as the brand of choice among guidos that like to have their pictures taken clutching overpriced booze bottles while making kissy faces at the camera.
posted by The Straightener at 2:20 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks for clearing that up daq
posted by Flashman at 2:25 PM on August 10, 2007


Wow, amazing. Thanks for posting!
posted by agregoli at 2:32 PM on August 10, 2007


So far, we've found life everywhere in nature that isn't frozen solid or on fire. We've thought life was impossible because it was too hot, too cold, too barren, or too toxic. We've been wrong again and again and again. There's a fair chance that, if the lake developed the high oxygen content gradually enough, there is life in there. The way things are going, however, we may never actually know.
posted by zennie at 2:55 PM on August 10, 2007


nestle is gonna wanna suck that shit out and bottle it.
posted by quonsar at 3:18 PM on August 10, 2007


The cryobot is happy to see you.
posted by overhauser at 3:20 PM on August 10, 2007


I've sent an email to my friend stationed at McMurdo Base to sneak up on the Russians drilling operation and piss in the hole.

I don't like how the Russians are getting all balls first trying to spoil something before we good Americans stick our cocks in it a fuck it up right.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:07 PM on August 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


If the drilling over Vostok had continued uninterrupted, thereby encroaching upon the liquid portion of the lake, the hapless Russians might have been assaulted by a towering geyser of ancient water and liberated oxygen 1 due to the astonishing pressure of the hidden body of water.



1. And kerosene and freon.
posted by casconed at 4:56 PM on August 10, 2007


Who knows what the Nazis could've hidden there...

[Fade up scary music]


Yes, yes, wrong end and all, but still...never pass up a Godwin.
posted by djgh at 5:41 PM on August 10, 2007


Incredible ambition, going so far out of our way to screw up parts of the planet.
posted by darkstar at 6:19 PM on August 10, 2007


I, for one, welcome our alien overlords.

someone had to say it
posted by misha at 6:34 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


buncha shrimp, maybe some super-cool but invisible bacteria.
all of 'em blind.
oh and the temple of some long forgotten god of chilly places or some other such crap that the Russians will then exploit in their efforts to take over the world.
Cheeerist, what assholes.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:33 PM on August 10, 2007


How can they NOT contaminate the lake?
Imagine the pressure generated by all that ice above the lake surface , water will flow up the drill hole, kerosene floats on water, freon densifys the drilling fluid. I have a feeling the lake is going to be alright.
posted by hortense at 7:50 PM on August 10, 2007


sourwookie: "So, do I put my money on prehistoric super-virus, frozen Thing, or Elder Gods?"

If we're really lucky it'll be All Of The Above! Plus it could be The Middle Earth, Superman's Fortress of Solitude, where those who disappear in the Bermuda Triangle ended up, and where The Dharma Initative are keeping the cast of Lost.

What fun!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:14 PM on August 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


You people have it all wrong. The Rooskis are drilling a Hole To Hell.
posted by Tube at 8:16 PM on August 10, 2007


Once again the Russians are invading the Poles.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:26 PM on August 10, 2007 [9 favorites]


This isn't surprising, opposites can handshake. Brine pools.
posted by Mblue at 9:32 PM on August 10, 2007


Once again the Russians are invading the Poles.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:26 PM on August 10


*groan*

(and favorited)
posted by Marla Singer at 9:52 PM on August 10, 2007


Yo, Russia, WHAT THE FUCK?
First the whole Putin bringing Russia right back to the Stalin years, but instead of the Communist ideologies, he just has a frightening lust for oil. Not to mention that his cabinet is filled with former KGB cronies.
And now they are digging into a secret lake, which according to every self respecting novelist will hold some terrible secret or monster too great for humanity to contain. Seriously though, Russia has two options: Stop fucking shit up, or just get over with it and take over the world like they've wanted to for so long now.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 10:59 PM on August 10, 2007


with the dinosaurs and the fire and the screaming

Bring on the screaming. Makes me feel goooood.
posted by metasonix at 11:53 PM on August 10, 2007


The Tinfoil People are interested. "Clue: were many ancient temples magnetic in nature?"

Mblue - also, haloclines. They also occur in underwater caves like those in the Yucatan. Divers tell me the haloclines there look like the surface when viewed from below.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:06 AM on August 11, 2007


Make that, "water-filled caves like those in the Yucatan." The cenote entrances are on land, often far from the coast.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 AM on August 11, 2007


Drill, Russians, Drill!
posted by rmmcclay at 4:48 AM on August 11, 2007


Smila will take care of this.
posted by craniac at 6:42 AM on August 11, 2007


No one knows how this lake stays liquid in a region where the temperature recently fell to minus 132 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest ever recorded on Earth. The temperature has not risen above freezing for millions of years.

Could it be something to do with the pressure? In which case, won't it just freeze rather quickly if the Russians depressurize it?
posted by taursir at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2007


In Soviet Russia, lake drills you!
posted by lazaruslong at 10:55 AM on August 11, 2007


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