Russian scientists have finally drilled through to a gigantic freshwater lake, hidden under nearly four km of ice for more than 20 million years, in the Antarctica, and hope to discover new forms of life unknown to humanity.
Excited scientists hailed the success, comparing it to the race for the moon and outer space. ''I think it's fair to compare this project to flying to the moon,'' said Valery Lukin, head of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI).
According to Waleed Abdalati, chief scientist, NASA, the discovery can transform the way we think about life.
Robin Bell, a Colombia University glaciologist, compared the achievement to exploring another planet. Lake Vostok, the pristine body of water that Russian scientists finally drilled through, is 250 km long and 50 km across at its widest point. It is the largest of about 400 sub-glacial lakes in Antarctica.
The lake is located 3.76 km below the Antarctica – about 1,300 km from the South Pole – and has been protected by a massive crust of ice that prevents heat generated by geo-thermal energy from escaping. Scientists are expecting microbial life forms that existed before the Ice Age in the dark depths of the lake.
The conditions in the lake are similar to those that may be prevalent under the ice crust on planets such as Mars or some of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn.