Saturday, 13 July 2013

Waters from ancient times......


Image above: Vostok research base – the coldest inhabited place. Full stop.
As far as desolation goes, Vostok research station is king, queen, Khal, and brattish prince Joffrey: Perched atop an Antarctic glacier, an average winter drops to minus fifty Celsius, a bad winter to minus seventy five, and really bad winter can push minus ninety – at which temperature the CO2 people exhale freezes solid.

Why do 25 people live and work out there? Is it some bizarre, icy, masochism? Are they X-factor contestants who crossed Cowell? Zombie slaves to the evil south pole Santa?

He’s real kids. If you’re naughty enough you’ll find out what he does to you this Christmas.
Nope. They came to study a lake.

See, beneath Vostok station is Lake Vostok. And Lake Vostok has been totally isolated from the world for twenty million years.


What’s in there is anyone’s guess – it took nearly thirty years just to drill through the four kilometre thick glacier* - but some of the first samples of the lake contained bacteria that thrive in hot water. Which is odd for a lake under an ice sheet.

The leading theory on this? The lake might have hydrothermal vents – and the stuff growing around normal vents is plenty weird enough.

The seriously weird things living near a hydrothermal vent. Seriously weird things...

After twenty million years evolving, away from the surface, the life forms in the lake may as well be aliens – and since all the water bearing worlds within reach of our space probes have ice covered seas, lake Vostok is valuable practice….


* Because they kept having to stop, due to the risk of contaminating the lake. Not because the 'drilling' was being done by one guy with a Black'n'decker cordless.