February 8, 2012

"Russian scientists have breached an ice sheet that has sealed subglacial Lake Vostok in Antarctica for more than 20 million years..."

"... at a depth of nearly 4,000 meters, reaching a critical stage in a decades-long drilling project... Lake Vostok is the largest of a network of hidden subglacial Antarctic lakes... It is also one of the largest lakes in the world."

Reports The Moscow Times, which adds this spicy tidbit:
Rumors that these lakes were also home to secret German submarine bases during World War II are also being revisited in the wake of renewed excitement, driven by Nazi claims that they had created an "unassailable" Antarctic fortress and by archival evidence describing the construction of ice caves.
No Nazis in the NYT report, which pays attention to the threat of pollution from the kerosene and Freon used in the drilling and the prediction — which was supposedly correct — that the borehole would freeze up, sealing in the chemicals, as soon as the drill reached the lake.

44 comments:

Fen said...

Cool. For awhile there we thought they had been lost.

Patrick said...

Those glaciers are cool. I can't wait for them all to melt so we can see what's under them.

Petunia said...

I wonder when The Thing will surface? Especially now that the Nazis have had decades to make it even scarier.

Pastafarian said...

Did the Nazis build these underwater bases before or after their bases on the far side of the moon?

Patrick said...

Maybe Newt will propose to make it a state.

Jay said...

I enjoy articles like this. I think this type of exploration & discovery should be more encouraged.

Hopefully they don't let out a killer school of pirhanas or something...

YoungHegelian said...

When those Russkies see Scully & Mulder drive up in a snowmobile, they'll know it's probably a good time to hit the road.

SGT Ted said...

This has got to have some enviro-weenies panties in a twist.

Therefor, I am for it.

Scott M said...

Did the Nazis build these underwater bases before or after their bases on the far side of the moon?

Check out the trailer for Iron Skies, due out soon.

Fen said...

True. Maybe release a prehistoric superbug that forces liberals to evolve.

edutcher said...

Waiting for Hitler and Eva to emerge.

Petunia said...

I am also reminded of the Arthur C. Clarke short story, "Before Eden".

Hoping that the surge of water from below, that filled in part of the borehole and froze, kept most contaminants out.

Another excellent Clarke short story (of course, there are a lot): "A Walk in the Dark".

robinintn said...

At least in Russia, the exploration urge hasn't been completely suppressed by Gaia worship. Imagine trying to do something like that here. Oh, wait. Keystone.

Fen said...

Hoping that the surge of water from below, that filled in part of the borehole and froze, kept most contaminants out.

They did it themselves. From what I read a few days ago, they were extremely careful to not contaminate.

LarsPorsena said...

Good! Now we can sift through the debris of that Predator vs Alien battle.

cubanbob said...

Speaking of frozen Nazi's, see Dead Snow.

phx said...

It reminded me how Vol I of the Gulag Archipelago started out.

chickenlittle said...

Wait? Weren't the ancient lakes lakes? Meaning they were pooled on a land mass? The story would be more credible applied to the Arctic ice mass, especially given Russian proximity.

Guess I'd better read the article.

MadisonMan said...

Nicely done to drill that far. Now get the heck outta dodge before winter!

Methadras said...

Seriously, the amount of kerosene and freon used wouldn't make a dicks world of difference in a subglacial lake of that size. It will be interesting to see what is down there, but I highly suspect that there will be nothing except maybe bacteria. I hope I'm wrong.

Sigivald said...

To clarify, and in the Times' favor, for once - they're not worried about "pollution" from the kerosene and freon; they're worried about contaminating the water samples and invalidating the entire point of the expedition.

There's no life on the surface to harm with pollution, and the overall health of the lake, if there was anything living in it, would be difficult to affect with such a small amount of kerosense.

(Freon is essentially inert in normal circumstances, and algae actually like to eat kerosene*, so it's not that huge of a problem anyway...

* Ask anyone with a diesel about algae issues, ugh.)

traditionalguy said...

Putin may be trying to corner the market of Ancient Water sold by the bottle.

They could also sell the Vodka brewed with it and the ice cubes made with it.

Andrea said...

"Wait? Weren't the ancient lakes lakes? Meaning they were pooled on a land mass? The story would be more credible applied to the Arctic ice mass, especially given Russian proximity."

Um -- the Antarctic is a land mass. It's just covered in ice. But it's a real continent, with dirt and rocks and everything down there. It's even got mountains and live volcanoes.

Hagar said...

The statement that Lake Vostok has been "sealed by the ice for 20 million years" is questionable.
Glaciers move, and I think I remember seeing other statements that there is no ice now existing on Earth that is much more than 400 years old.
That would then also hold for the ice now in contact with the surface of the lake.

MadisonMan said...

I remember seeing other statements that there is no ice now existing on Earth that is much more than 400 years old.

Ice cores extract ice from 100s of thousands of years ago. I don't know where you saw such a statement about ice age, but it was wrong.

Hagar said...

Right!

"400,000 years"

Hagar said...

or 2 3/4 glaciation cycles.

Joe said...

The geological evidence that Antarctica froze over about 33 million years ago. Even if not all the ice current present was there 33 million years ago, Lake Vostok has likely been sealed under ice for at least 20 million years, if not longer.

Hagar said...

So, but if the ice is not 20 million years old, the lake has not been "sealed off" in the context of the article, meaning no contact with anything younger than that. And ice is not devoid of life.

Hagar said...

The current "Ice Age" is estimated to be about 2.7 million years old. The global temperatures prior to that would probably have varied within about the same range as in the last 2.7 million years, but at a 10-15 degrees C higher level.
Have they proved that Antarctica stayed frozen over in the peak warm periods?

Scott M said...

What keep water liquid at the bottom of something like that for so long? Geothermal energy? The nihiling d-sinks of a crashed Nazca space craft?

I know, I know. That second one was silly. Of course, I meant Egyptian.

Jose_K said...

Do they have to pay for the dammages to the mansion of Jor- El?

Hagar said...

Vostok StationThe lake water is believed to have been sealed off under the thick ice sheet about 15 million years ago. Initially, it was thought that the same water had made up the lake since the time of its formation, giving a residence time in the order of one million years.[17] Later research by Robin Bell and Michael Studinger from the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University suggested that the water of the lake is continually freezing and being carried away by the motion of the Antarctic ice sheet, while being replaced by water melting from other parts of the ice sheet in these high pressure conditions. This resulted in an estimate that the entire volume of the lake is frozen and removed every 13,300 years—its effective mean residence time.[23]

From Wikipedia

Scott M said...

Which Jor-El? That girly tight-wearing sop or the Master Of Scheduling?

Geoff Matthews said...

If this is a lake, does it have a river, and if so, does that river lead out to the ocean, or to another lake?
And if so, could you direct a sub into it?

Crimso said...

"What keep water liquid at the bottom of something like that for so long?"

Could be pressure. Unlike most substances, H2O tends towards its liquid state rather than its solid state when pressure is applied (up to a point, I suppose).

I wonder if the geometry down in that lake happens to be non-Euclidean.

Fen said...

Grats Crismo on the Insty quote!

Christy said...

Drat, Hagar! If the water turns over every 13000 years or so, that means heavy water hasn't concentrated at the bottom. Just think, 22 million years of tritium settling out in the bottom of a lake now breached by Russians! Would have make a terrific cold war thriller.

Crimso said...

Thanks Fen. You should see the activity among my friends on Facebook. Funny stuff.

And I do consider H5N1 to be a significant threat.

Crimso said...

It's also worth noting that one of the two groups with H5N1 manuscripts on hold is from Althouse's own UW-Madison.

Joe said...

Pressure does cause water to melt. (This has caused concern in Greenland as the ice sheet has increased in thickness, thus increasing pressure and outflows. It acts as a lubricant allowing the glacier to move more than it otherwise would, perhaps in a catastrophic way.) This is another factor that may cause ice to by cycled without uncovering a reservoir under the ice.

Xmas said...

Ice melts under pressure...which is pretty much why skis and ice skates work.

Robert R. said...

So, no Elder Things or Shoggoths. Yet.

Crimso said...

Robert R.:
The non-Euclidean geometry might be the first indicator to expect something along those lines.