Reaching The World's Coolest (and Most Isolated) Lake

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If you ever wondered what the coolest lake in the world is, wonder no more. It's called Lake Vostok, and it's in Antarctica. Actually, it's under Antarctica -- four kilometers below its icy surface -- making it not only the coolest lake, but the coldest, too, and likely the most isolated. Russian scientists have been drilling toward it since the 1990s, but drilling was stopped for eight years in 1998 over fears about contamination. According to Wired, the lake is "unique in that it's been completely isolated from the other 150 subglacial lakes on the continent for such a long time. It's also oligotropic, meaning that it's supersaturated with oxygen -- levels of the element are 50 times higher than those found in most typical freshwater lakes." It's also geothermally heated, which explains how anything can survive down there.

Now that Russian scientists about 100 meters from its subterranean surface, they're preparing a camera and some sample-gathering equipment. Not unlike Antarctica's fantastically strange (and undeniably Mars-like) dry valleys, the life they hope to find in Lake Vostok could bear some resemblance to the life that, hypothetically, at least, could exist below the icy surface of Europa, Jupiter's sixth moon. In other words, I am reasonably certain that we are about to discover aliens -- on our own planet. Stay tuned!

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January 7, 2011 - 6:58am
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