Geek Post: After 20 years of drilling, scientists have almost reached a subglacial lake in Antarctica that hasn’t seen daylight in 20 million years

Which could mean great scientific advances, or the release of an unstoppable evil from its tomb, hard to say, but they’d better keep the flamethrowers handy.

If you’ve ever been around “enormously excited” scientists, you know the total level of geekdom this is right now.   Pocket protectors are quivering with glee and nervous anticipation everywhere. 

Update Hat Tip Zmalfoy –  Yikes, the scientists are missing.   Quick send the flamethrowers, FLAMETHROWERS.    Dispatch the military to get rid of whatever they have released before it comes down and tries to assimilate us too. 

A group of Russian scientists plumbing the frozen Antarctic in search of a lake buried in ice for tens of millions of years have failed to respond to increasingly anxious U.S. colleagues — and as the days creep by, the fate of the team remains unknown.  “No word from the ice for 5 days,” Dr. John Priscu — professor of ecology at Montana State University and head of a similar Antarctic exploration program — told via email.

The team from Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) have been drilling for weeks in an effort to reach isolated Lake Vostok, a vast, dark body of water hidden 13,000 ft.  below the ice sheet’s surface. The lake hasn’t been exposed to air in more than 20 million years.

Priscu said there was no way to get in touch with the team — and the already cold weather is set to plunge, as Antarctica’s summer season ends and winter sets in.

“Temps are dropping below -40 Celsius [-40 degrees Fahrenheit] and they have only a week or so left before they have to winterize the station,” he said. “I can only imagine what things must be like at Vostok Station this week.”

The team’s disappearance could not come at a worse time: They are about 40 feet from their goal of reaching the body of water, Priscu explained, a goal that the team was unable to meet as they raced the coming winter exactly one year ago(read more)

—————————– Original Article Below ———————— 

antarctica – After drilling for two decades through more than two miles of antarctic ice, Russian scientists are on the verge of entering a vast, dark lake that hasn’t been touched by light for more than 20 million years.

Scientists are enormously excited about what life-forms might be found there but are equally worried about contaminating the lake with drilling fluids and bacteria, and the potentially explosive “de-gassing” of a body of water that has especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen.

To prevent a sudden release of gas, the Russian team will not push the drill far into the lake but just deep enough for a limited amount of water — or the slushy ice on the lake’s surface — to flow up the borehole, where it will then freeze.

Reaching Lake Vostok would represent the first direct contact with what scientists now know is a web of more than 200 subglacial lakes in Antarctica — some of which existed when the continent was connected to Australia and was much warmer. They stay liquid because of heat from the core of the planet.

“This is a huge moment for science and exploration, breaking through to this enormous lake that we didn’t even know existed until the 1990s,” said John Priscu, a researcher at Montana State University who has long been involved in antarctic research, including a study of Vostok ice cores.

“If it goes well, a breakthrough opens up a whole new chapter in our understanding of our planet and possibly moons in our solar system and planets far beyond,” he said. “If it doesn’t go well, it casts a pall over the whole effort to explore this wet underside of Antarctica.”

Priscu said Russian scientists on the scene e-mailed him last week to say they had stopped drilling about 40 feet from the expected waterline to measure the pressure levels deep below. Priscu said he expected that they were also sending down a special “hot water” drill to make the final push, but a message from the Russian team Monday reported “no news.”

If the Russians break through as planned within the next week, it will cap more than 50 years of research in what are considered the harshest conditions in the world — where the surface temperatures drop to 100 degrees below zero. That extreme cold is likely to return within a few weeks, at the end of the antarctic summer, putting pressure on the Russians to make the final push or pull out until the next antarctic drilling season, starting in December.

The extreme cold, which limited drilling time, contributed to the long duration of the project. The Russian team also ran into delays caused by financial strains and by efforts to address international worries about their drilling operation.

Valery Lukin, who is leading the effort for the Russians, is on the ice. Last year, he told Reuters that their work is “like exploring an alien planet where no one has been before. We don’t know what we’ll find.”

The ‘crown jewel’  – American and English teams are planning drilling campaigns next year into much smaller antarctic lakes as scientists work to understand the dynamics of the continent, which holds more than 70 percent of the world’s fresh water. But Vostok — where the former Soviet Union began work after the United States settled in at the South Pole more than 50 years ago — is now acknowledged to be the “crown jewel” of Antarctica from a scientific perspective.  (article)

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38 Responses to Geek Post: After 20 years of drilling, scientists have almost reached a subglacial lake in Antarctica that hasn’t seen daylight in 20 million years

  1. WeeWeed says:

    I read a (fiction) book about reaching Lake Vostok a few years ago. Don’t Drink That Water…..


  2. zmalfoy says:

    *facepalm* don’t these idiots know that those deep, dark lakes are where the Old Ones sleep? There, lulled by the warmth while trapped by the ice . . .Why, oh why, is it always Russian and American scientists rushing to wake Cthulhu?


    • Exactly….. Didn’t any of these science folk watch the movie “The Thing”? I mean, really?


      • Oh man, one of my old time favorites. THE THING. Can’t wait to see what these fruitcake scientist are gonna come up with now. These educated idiots are gonna kill us all yet (can’t wait for the bomb, their in a race to do it themselves) while they dily dally around with playing God, you know the usual stuff they do.


      • Patriot Dreamer says:

        I sure hope they have Kurt Russell on standby!


    • Aussie says:

      more like Jurassic Park….

      but did you know that scientists are actually trying to create those monoliths? I saw something recently… and yes I was aghast that they would try such a thing for real!!


  3. texan59 says:

    If they just waited a couple more weeks I’m sure that glo-bull warming would’ve taken care of this on it’s own! 20 years. Sounds like the same guys who were “repairing” I-45 between Houston and Galveston. I’m thinking that some West Texas roughnecks could’ve done this in a couple weeks. 😆


  4. tnwahm says:

    20 million years? I call BS on that.


    • Solaratov says:

      Espexially since the ice (in the graphic( is labelled as “420,000 years old”. Something does not compute. 😉


      • zmalfoy says:

        I’ve given up trying to compute what official scientists tell me. There’s too much out there that doesn’t compute for the people paying attention, too much data that contradicts official conclusions. [Although, 420,000 years makes a lot more sense, to me. . . ].


  5. snowqueen says:

    If they haven’t gotten there yet, how do they know the lake contains especially high concentrations of oxygen and nitrogen?


  6. G8rmom7 says:

    hee hee “de-gassing”. hee hee


  7. loopyloo305 says:

    I have been watching this story for years and everytime they are just almost there. I think that it is fascinating but I hope that this time they actually break through.


  8. If we could now bring up bacteria that haven’t seen the light of day in a couple million years, I am sure we could create many more problems for government to become involved in solving… Right?


  9. I’m sorry, but the only Antarctic ice drilling that interested me was the recovery of Shackleton’s whiskey. Apparently, the 103 year old bottles turned out to be pretty good.


  10. Solaratov says:

    And, you just know, that if Cthulhu is awakened and released, it’ll be all Bush’s fault!!! 👿


  11. I’ve got a 10-spot that says they’re incommunicado because they broke their last bit a few feet short of Vostok, and they had to send somebody out on a snowmobile to the TruValue at McMurdo. Either that, or they found out, once again, that they’re really still 6 months away, and they’re blamestorming around the conference table right now.


    • LOL! You are probably right! 🙂


      • PD, your Army background just made me think of the next most likely scenario. You reminded me of a conversation I had years ago in a Rocky Mountain hot springs 9 miles into the backcountry, between myself, one of my brothers (who’d just returned from an Army tour in Kuwait) and a Russian rocket engineer (ex-Soviet Army Officer). I took this photo, so I’m not in it, but the brother is in the left foreground, talking to the Russian dude at the very bottom, facing away. If you like, you can imagine me crouching in the mud nearby, buck naked, fumbling with my pile of gear while snapping the photo. But I warn you, there’s a reason why most of the people, especially the women, are looking away. 😉

        After talking to this guy for a few hours, it seems likely that the Vostok crew ran out of Vodka and drank all the kerosene that they needed for the final drilling. That probably brought the drilling to a halt. Also, the partial kerosene coma and blindness is known to last for a few days, so I’m guessing that nobody has found their way to the radio shack to radio back yet. They’ll make it. We just have to wait another day or two. 🙂


    • WeeWeed says:

      LOL! Speaking of hundreds of feet of ice, are y’all snowed in??


      • Still coming down and howling like a banshee. Can’t keep up with it, so I’ve taken a break from the shoveling. Might end up getting a few feet here, from the looks of it.


        • WeeWeed says:

          You’re at home, I hope??


          • Oh yeah, thank Goodness. Still got a daughter tending bar up in Aurora, but I’ll get her later tonight. Thanks for askin’.


            • Menagerie says:

              How will you get her? We got two feet once, 93 I think. No power for 5 days, no water, husband and neighbor went out and cut down trees for firewood. Cooked food in the fireplace and on the gas grill. Moved all the mattresses down to the den by the fireplace, which was really a lousy source of heat, of course. I know you guys are more prepared, but we couldn’t get out of the neighborhood for 5 or 6 days.


              • Oh, no worries. There’s a reason that our 3 family vehicles are all 4WD. The plows are keeping the main roads down to no more than 6″ of harbor chop, and the local roads have been getting beaten down to manageable level. Some of the neighbors with blades have blown through with the blades down once or twice, so it’s not too bad. Not as bad as they’re making it sound. Also, many of our power lines are underground, so that helps keep the furnaces going most of the time.


  12. Solaratov says:

    “Russian scientists killed and eaten, though not necessarily in that order……….” 😀


    • Coyote says:

      Interesting side article on that page. Instead of working our “leaders” over with a bat, we should just laugh at them. I wonder how that would work out…somehow, I just don’t see it working on them.


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