Russians Reach Antarctic Lake Sealed 15M Years

Lake Vostok may yield new life forms

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 7, 2012 12:35 AM CST | Updated Feb 7, 2012 4:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Russian scientists have successfully drilled through more than two miles of ice to reach a "lost world" under Antarctica, according to a Russian newswire. Lake Vostok has been sealed off for some 15 million years. While some fear it has been contaminated by kerosene and other materials used by the Russian team, scientists hope it will yield exceptionally hardy life forms that have evolved in isolation from everything else on Earth, the Guardian reports.

The expedition could "transform the way we do science in Antarctica and provide us with an entirely new view of what exists under the vast Antarctic ice sheet," a veteran Antarctic researcher tells LiveScience. The Russian team only has a few days before brutal cold will force them to leave the research station, and any analysis of lake samples will have to wait until later this year. American and British teams are also working to obtain samples from the lakes under Antarctica, of which Vostok—the size of Lake Ontario but only discovered in the '90s—is the biggest.

A NASA satellite image of Lake Vostok.
A NASA satellite image of Lake Vostok.   (NASA)
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