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Russian Team Retrieves Clean Samples from Buried Antarctic Lake

Jan 15, 2013 05:49 AM EST
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Russian researchers pose for a picture at the Vostok station in Antarctica.
(Photo : Reuters)

Russian researchers announced that they have successfully retrieved clean samples from Lake Vostok in Antarctica.

Lake Vostok is buried more than two miles below the Antarctic ice, and scientists believe it has been isolated for more than 14 million years.

Researchers had earlier proposed that buried Antarctic lakes could harbor microbial life even if sunlight does not penetrate to those depths.

In a bid to search for microbial life and to study Antarctica's past climatic conditions, countries like Russia, Britain and the U.S. had sent scientists to drill buried lakes located at various sites in Antarctica.

The Russian team took water samples after drilling Lake Vostok, which is the largest of Antarctica's subglacial lakes, last year in February. They could not find microbial life, as the samples were contaminated with drilling oil and the lubricant used to drill the borehole.

The Russian team once again drilled the ice and reached the lake Jan. 10 this year, at a depth of 11,174 feet (3,406 meters), according to a statement from Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.

"The first core of transparent lake ice, 2 meters long, was obtained on January 10 at a depth of 3,406 meters. Inside it was a vertical channel filled with white bubble-rich ice," the research institute said in the statement.

The announcement has come just weeks after a British team called off their mission to drill Antarctic lake Ellsworth and returned home.

On Jan. 13, a U.S. team had completed its 628-mile (1,000 kilometers) journey from the United States' McMurdo Station to subglacial Lake Whillans, which is buried beneath some 2,624 feet (800m) of ice. The team will begin to drill the lake this week, according to a report in Nature News.

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