Microbes in the News

Ancient Microbes in Vast Under-ice Antarctic Lake ?

Article synopsis:
British and Russian scientists have discovered a vast lake two-and-a-half miles beneath the ice in Antarctica. It's waters, which have been isolated for 50,000 years, may contain microorganisms as much as a million years old.

Article citation:
"Antarctic 'dream': Lake below ice", Lansing State Journal, June 23, 1996, page 12 A (by Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times)

Article summary:
British and Russian researchers have discovered and mapped a huge lake beneath the ice in Antarctica. A body of unfrozen fresh water the size of Lake Ontario has been discovered two-and-a-half miles beneath the ice in East Antarctica. Researchers believe that the lake may contain interesting microscopic organisms, including bacteria, viruses and simple plants, that have been isolated from other organisms and environments for a long time. The scientists are unsure how to tap into the lake without contaminating it or without unleashing pressurized water that could destroy a surface drilling station. The lake is 124 miles long and averages 400 feet deep, and is beneath Russia's Vostok research station in Antarctica. Scientists speculate that water in the lake is, on average, about 50,000 years old. They believe life forms trapped in the lake may be as much as a million years old, and that sediments on the lake's bottom may be several million years old. The existence of the lake has been suspected since the 1970s, based on air-borne radar studies of the surface. Recently collected satellite data has helped scientists begin to assess the lake's boundaries and chemical composition.