Wednesday, 8 February 2012


After twenty years of effort and attempts, Russian researches have managed to bore through some four-hundred thousand years of ice to tap the surface of the immense subglacial lake Vostok (DE/EN). The body of water, rivaling the Great Lakes of North America or Lake Baikal in volume exists in liquid form, despite the below freezing conditions due to the enormous pressures exerted by a four thousand meter thick sheet of ice over it. One of some one hundred forty known reservoirs under the Antarctic ice, the lake originally existed only as a hypothesis, until its discovery as a ground scanning radar anomaly--much in the same way ancient geomancers postulated the existence of a southern continent to balance the globe. Such exploration is estimated by some to represent some of the last undiscovered geological finds on Earth, but considering how adventurers and prospectors have never penetrated beyond the surface, nor sounded much beyond the crests of waves, I think that this could usher in a whole new golden age of exploration.

Plus considering how poorly ecology is understood and given life's capacity to astound and adapt, it is never just mountain high or valley low. Environmentalists and rival drilling teams have expressed concern over Russia's methods and worry about contamination, suggesting that a more isolated and smaller lake ought to have been probed first, to see if it could be done safely, rather than going after the biggest. I think, though, that the Russian scientists are keenly aware of this and will take every precaution. Exploration does not equate to exploitation, and they know that to taint this discovery would be to lose a unique chance and there has been enough propaganda from science fiction to give anyone pause. The project has been carried out in careful phases, under the assumption that exotic microbes live in this environment. Confirmation would strengthen the case for Earth-like, familiar, organisms on the satellites Europa and Enceladus, icy moons harbouring subterranean seas. Despite whatever corollaries are drawn to imaged alien life, this process excites the imagination and respect for the unknown even more. What if the artefacts of some Lovecraftian race lost to the ages are found? These water flowed millions of years ago on a subtropical land joined with Australia. Science and science-fiction both are accomplished at postulating.