Russian scientists are racing against time to drill into an Antarctic lake that has been isolated from everything else on Earth for 15 million years. Lake Vostok is one of the biggest and deepest lakes on Earth, but its existence was confirmed by satellite images only in the '90s. It lies beneath 13,000 feet of ice, and the Russian team has a week to drill the final 150 feet and take samples before harsh weather will force them to leave the base for the season.
The team hopes to find life forms beneath the ice that have never been seen before, although some experts fear that the expedition could case irreversible damage to the freshwater lake's pristine ecosystem. "It's like working on an alien planet where no one has been before," the project head tells the BBC. "We don't know what awaits us down there." Scientists hope the Vostok project will help them understand conditions on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, which they believe also contains vast amounts of water under a thick shell of ice.
(Read more Lake Vostok stories.)