From: Richard Harris, NPR Topics: Environment
Published February 3, 2011 08:45 AM

Deep Below Antarctic Ice, Lake May Soon See Light

Russian scientists are on the verge of punching a hole into a vast Antarctic lake that's buried under more than two miles of ice.

If the Russians break through, they may tap into and disturb a primitive and pristine ecosystem that has been untouched for millions of years.

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Lake Vostok is actually the third largest lake in the world, measured by the amount of water it holds. And if you're surprised to learn that there could be a vast pool of liquid water under two miles of ice, so were the Soviets.

In fact, they had no idea there was a lake there when they built their Vostok camp more than 50 years ago. Robin Bell, a professor of marine geology and geophysics at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the Soviets picked the spot because it was the Earth's magnetic South Pole.

"The Russians went to the magnetic South Pole in 1958 because they missed the race to the rotational South Pole," Bell says. The U.S. claimed that prime real estate.

But it turns out the south magnetic pole isn't fixed in one place — in fact, it wandered off from Camp Vostok, leaving the Soviet base seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

Article continues: http://www.npr.org/2011/02/03/133441327/deep-below-antarctic-ice-lake-may-soon-see-light?ft=1&f=1025

Photo credit: Nicolle Rager-Fuller / National Science Foundation

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