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Scientists Provide Perspectives as Drilling Reaches Subglacial Antarctic Lake Vostok

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Abstract

Culminating decades of effort, researchers drilled to subglacial Lake Vostok on 5 February. The glacial drilling team of the 57th Russian Antarctic Expedition penetrated to the waters of the lake at a depth of 3769.3 meters through deep ice borehole 5G, according to a report sent to the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute by the head of Vostok station and the head of the glacial drilling team. Researchers collected about 1.5 cubic meters of water while working to prevent contamination of the lake before a plug of frozen water sealed the lake again, as researchers had planned. The accomplishment culminates decades of effort to reach Lake Vostok—a freshwater lake roughly the size of Lake Ontario located near the middle of the continent—and it opens up a new era in investigating subglacial Antarctic lakes. Some scientists speculate that Lake Vostok, the largest of more than 280 known subglacial lakes on the continent, could harbor life forms in an environment that has been sealed off from light and air for possibly tens of millions of years. They also speculate that the Vostok environment could be analogous to that of some icy moons in the solar system.