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Russians About To Access 14 Million Year Old Antarctic Lake


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2.5 miles beneath the windblown surface of Antarctica sits a whole new world. A lake, closed off from the surface for 14 million years, is about to be accessed by a Russian crew, who have been drilling – off and on – since 1990.

The drill right now is just 328 feet above the lake. There’s a chance that they won’t get through before the Antarctic summer ends and the final feet will have to be broken through next year, but I’m being positive. While I’m also being cynical – Lake Vostok (as it’s called) must harbor a monster or a weird virus or some occult, Lovecraftian portal or something right? Please?

There have been a lot of problems drilling that far down, many of them environmental. Right now, though, the team has convinced the Powers That Be that they can sample the lake without contaminating it with the outside world. Apparently the idea is that the lake water will rush up through the drilled hole but freeze long before it gets to the surface, effectively capping the hole naturally.

The lake is hyperoxygenated, which means anything living in there – besides evolving on its own weird path for 14 million years – is adapted to extreme environments. Like we might find on other planets. Finding life in Vostok would go a long way towards the continued demolition of our preconceived notions of just what sort of environments life prefers.

But of course we all know exactly what kind of environments monsters prefer…

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The Magnetic Anomaly

Early research into Lake Vostok indicated that the body of water had a depth of 2,000 feet—far deeper than any of the Great Lakes and half as deep as Asia’s Lake Baikal (5,000 feet)—a length of 300 miles and a width of 50 miles. Contrary to what was initially believed, the lake received filtered light. Further investigations also detected the existence of geothermal sources which warmed the lake to an astonishing 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with “hot spots” of up to 65 degrees. Given these new discoveries regarding solar radiation and temperature, scientists suggested the possibility that the lake’s encapsulated atmosphere purified itself through a complex interaction with water, and that the chances for vegetable life forms were very good.

Research conducted by Russian scientist Ian Toskovoi—who vanished near the Vostok station in March 2000—on “geothermal upboiling” also hinted at an alternative means of purification and replenishment for the subterranean lake’s atmosphere. Toskovoi’s geothermal upboils were located in the so-called “ice dunes,” which appear to be formed by thousands of bubbles of air measuring between several feet to several hundred feet.

However, the most intriguing news coming out of Antarctica had to do with the extremely powerful “magnetic anomaly” located in the northern end of the lake’s coast: a discovery which would give rise to a number of conjectures and would be compared with the fictional TMA-1 (Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1) in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The electronic newspaper Antarctic Sun (www.polar.org), which soon became the main source of information on the Lake Vostok magnetic anomaly, stated that during the initial flight of the SOAR (Support Office for Aero-physical Research), aimed at conducting magnetic resonance imaging over the area, the magnetometer recorded an increase of 1,000 nanoteslas beyond the 60,000 nanoteslas which characterized the Vostok Station. Scientists had expected to find magnetic anomalies in the range of 500 to 600 nanoteslas in areas where volcanic material could be located, but the ranges encountered were simply startling. “This anomaly is so large that it cannot be the product of a daily change in the magnetic field,” stated Michael Studinger, one of the researchers involved in the mapping endeavor.

Also significant was the sheer size of the anomaly: 65 by 46 square miles. According to the mission’s geological team, the anomaly’s size and severity pointed to the fact that geological changes had taken place under the lake, suggesting the possibility that it was a place where “the earth’s crust was thinner.”

Australian geologist Harry Mason summarized the subject thus: “The magnetic anomaly’s sheer size and intensity suggest the presence of a large ultrabase component under this section of Lake Vostok at the surface of the continental crust rock, in other words, on the old surface prior to the ice formation.”

Using much less technical language, others noted that Mason’s explanation matched the hypothesis suggested by Prof. Thomas Gold in Australia’s Nexus magazine. According to Professor Gold, the amount of methane and exotic gases such as xenon and argon could represent a direct threat to global climate, since they would come directly from the Earth’s mantle using the geological features under Lake Vostok as “chimneys.” Aside from the danger this could represent for our planet’s embattled atmosphere, the teams of scientists and technicians in charge of drilling through the methane dome would be in the first line of danger, since such an operation would likely result in a catastrophic explosion.

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It kind of sounds like a good script for a sci-fi horror movie.

" And the crew drilled relentlessly, getting closer and closer to unlocking one of the many mysteries of this frozen frontier.

But little did they know, of the ancient evil that they would awaken."

We can only hope that the Russians run into that.

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Whatever life is down there is as alien as anything in outer space, I bet.

How cool would it be to see them actually unleash some giant monster that has to be destroyed before it reaches Australia or something..

But, as usual, they'll probably get all excited over some microbes.


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