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 FoxNews.com 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)