Drilling some 12,000 feet beneath the Earth’s surface, a Russian expedition has reached a vast freshwater lake roughly the size of Lake Ontario. Confirmation that the drill had reached the lake came on Sunday, and the Russian team’s predictions that pressurized lakewater would rush forward and freeze, plugging the bore hole and preserving the pristine lake, were accurate. Valery Lukin, director of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, compared this achievement to other great moments in science history:
“For me, the discovery of this lake is comparable with the first flight into space,” he told the Interfax News Agency. “By technological complexity, by importance, by uniqueness.”
Lake Vostok (as it has been dubbed) is one of many subglacial lakes that have been sealed off for millions of years; pressure and warmth from the Earth below keep the lakes liquid. What was not know was the size of this particular lake, and what intrigued scientists was the possibility the lake might contain microbes, or perhaps ancient beings from the beyond the stars who fled their homeworlds to escape the threat of an unstoppable horror. Russian scientists declined to predict whether this heralded the coming of a prophesied Elder God. Instead, they concentrated on completing the project before the Antarctic summer ended; temperatures during the winter make it near impossible to conduct scientific work.
Fortunately, the lakewater filled the bore hole as expected, thus preserving the pristine sample for further study. Scientists noted that preservation of the sample is extremely important, as the conditions of this subglacial lake are similar to conditions found on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.