Lake Vostok, which was under the ice for 14 million years, will soon be available for study by Russian scientists.
The lake lies at a depth of four kilometers below the surface of Antarctica. It is unique in that it was in complete isolation from the other 150 subglacial lakes on for a very long period of time. And oversaturation of oxygen - the level of its content is 50 times higher than the rate for ordinary freshwater lakes.
Since 1990, the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg, conducted drilling operations in order to explore the lake. But fears of a possible violation of the balance of the ecosystem of the lake have been the reason for their stop. The longest break came in 1998, when drilling froze nearly eight years.
But the group still managed to come to an agreement with an international organization "the Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty," which monitors the safety of the environment of the continent. They have developed a special technique that allows to sample the lake without contaminating it. Valery Lukin told the magazine New Scientist: "On reaching the lake, the water pressure will push the drill and drilling fluid upwards along the borehole, and then freeze the water again." After waiting the required time for the freezing point of water, the team will drill her to take a sample and analyze its composition.
Bur for the time being is just a hundred meters above the lake. When it will be up to 20-30 meters, replace the mechanical drill cutting torch, which is equipped with a camera. But time is short. It is quite possible that the drillers will not hit the water until the end of the Antarctic summer, and they will have to wait another year to finish the job.
The extracted sample will shed light on extremophiles - creatures that can live in extreme conditions. Life East Lake should adapt to a high oxygen concentration, which may require an equally high concentration of protective enzymes. Conditions in Lake Vostok are very similar to those of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn, so the results of this enterprise can change the way we think about alien life.