Sunday, October 21, 2012

Preliminary Results--No Life in Lake Vostok

Russian scientists had previously drilled into a subterranean (actually, buried under ice) lake in Antarctica called Lake Vostock. Preliminary results show no sign of life. From Fox News:
A first analysis of ice pulled from the largest body of water buried beneath Antarctica has yielded nothing but pristine water, untouched in tens of millions of years.

But that doesn’t mean the lake is lifeless.

Sergey Bulat of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia presented preliminary results from a study of ice pulled from the 6,000-square-mile subglacial lake in February. He and his colleagues told the 12th European Workshop on Astrobiology that they found fewer than 10 microbes per milliliter, according to a report at Nature.

That’s equivalent to the background in their clean room, Nature said.

But the results came not from the lake water that rushed up their borehole from the lake and froze it shut again; instead the first results came from ice that froze onto the drill bit itself -- and they did find elements that likely came from the drilling oil and lubricants used to poke a hole through 13,000 feet of ice to the lake.

Bulat hopes to get clean samples from the ice frozen in the hole soon, and the lower depths of the lake itself, which scientists believe may hold microbial life that has been sealed off and isolated for as much as 20 million years.
Frankly, every time I read about the expedition, it reminds of  the movie, The Thing or Lovecraft's classic, At the Mountains of Madness.

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