What's the Latest Development?
Russia seems to have won an international race to examine ancient lakes buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice. Drilling through two miles of ice, a Russian team of scientists may have already reached the waters of lake Vostok. The water currently trapped beneath the ice is thought to be one million years old; the lake itself has accumulated 14 million years. "Scientists believe the lake could be home to cold-loving microbial life adapted to living in total darkness," and to taking nutrients from hydrothermal ocean vents.
What's the Big Idea?
The US and UK are on their way to two separate lakes further West of Vostok. Lake Ellsworth is Britain's destination, where scientists are expected to begin drilling for water in the autumn. The US is scheduled to drill the Whillans Ice Stream by 2013. Both teams will use drilling technology that allow them to extract water samples from the lake. The Russians currently use technology which can extract only ice, meaning they will have to leave Vostok during the harsh winter months, returning later when the water has frozen.
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