The Russian drilling machine 5-G in Antarctica. The research institute said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, it has reached Lake Vostok, Antarctica's largest icebound freshwater lake, which has been sealed off for millions of years, after more than two decades of drilling
After more than two decades of drilling in Antarctica, Russian scientists have confirmed that they reached the surface of a gigantic freshwater lake hidden under miles of ice for some 20 million years.
The scientists returned 40 litres of water to the surface - water isolated from earthly life forms since before Man existed.
The scientists will later remove the frozen sample for analysis in December when the next Antarctic summer comes. They have now left the site.
The scientists rebuffed claims that their drilling could have contaminated the lake, a body of water which has been in isolation for 20 million years.
The Russian researchers have insisted the bore would only slightly touch the lake's surface and that a surge in pressure will send the water rushing up the shaft where it will freeze, immediately sealing out the toxic chemicals.
Lukin said about 50 cubic feet of kerosene and freon poured up to the surface from the boreshaft, proof that the lake water streamed up from beneath, froze, and blocked the hole.
'It's like exploring another planet, except this one is ours,' said Columbia University glaciologist Robin Bell
Valery Lukin, the head of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI), which is in charge of the mission, said in Wednesday's statement that his team reached the lake's surface on Sunday.
Lukin has previously compared the Lake Vostok effort to the moon race that the Soviet Union lost to the United States, telling the Russian media he was proud that Russia will be the first this time. Although far from being the world's deepest lake, the severe weather of Antarctica and the location's remoteness made the project challenging.
'There is no other place on Earth that has been in isolation for more than 20 million years,' said Lev Savatyugin, a researcher with the AARI. 'It's a meeting with the unknown.'
Cross country vehicles deliver food and fuel to the Vostok Antarctic research station, one of the coldest and most inhospitable places on Earth. It has recorded temperatures of -89 centigrade
Antarctica, McMurdo Station, boxes of ice cores from Lake Vostok beneath the polar plateau
Harsh conditions: The Russian team have also worked with French and American scientists on the project at Vostok Station
Read full article HERE :
Last year, the expedition stopped 10 to 50 metres short of the lake after the weather closed in and the scientists were forced to abandon the expedition.
Academics say they have found ‘the only giant super-clean water system on the planet’. They forecast the extraordinary 5,400 cubic kilometres of pristine water will be ‘twice cleaner than double-distilled water’, and any life will have developed in total isolation.