Through the ice!

After having drilled through 3623 meters of ice, the Russians have finally reached the sub-glacial Lake Vostok. This could prove to be incredibly interesting: It’s thought that if life, at any level, is found in a lake of this type it may very well be that there is life on Europa (one of jupiter’s moons, thought to have life) and on other similarly constructed planets and moons.

Lake Vostok is interesting for a number of reasons: It is thought to be supersaturated with oxygen and nitrogen, that is, it contains about 50 times the amount you’d find on earth, and even though the Lake Vostok base station has recorded the record low temperature of all time on earth (-89c), the lake remains liquid due to geothermal activity beneath the 3 kilometers of ice. Because of all these conditions; the supersaturation of oxygen, the complete lack of light and the geothermal energy it is thought that life may be found there that has never been observed before. Although it is under 3.6 km of ice, in 2005, researchers also recorded tides with a range of about 12 mm.

On another note, while things like these may lead to new insights about many different things, is it really right for us to drill down and pollute an environment like this that hasn’t been touched for 20 million years? You never know how sensitive ecosystems like these are. Something to think about.

Above: the Lake Vostok Station, location of Lake Vostok, & diagram of Lake Vostok.

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