Wednesday, April 28, 2010

breakthrough in Antarctica?

It's always dangerous to announce things that are just around the corner in publications, as they tend to change their minds and make the would-be prophet look silly. This happened to me with a few things, including the exploration of the sub-glacial lake Vostok in Antarctica. If memory serves, I already announced that event in my book Life on the Edge in 1998, and it still hasn't happened.

Mind you, there were very good reasons not to proceed with this project too hastily, as researchers are hoping to find a unique biotope down there and don't want to destroy it by connecting it with the outside world.

Now, after lots of thinking about the contamination risks and developing new methods to avoid it, Russian researchers at Vostok station say they are ready to proceed to the lake surface in the next Antarctic summer, 2010-11. I wrote a news feature about the drilling project and what it might discover, which is out in this week's issue of Current Biology:

Final drive for Antarctic breakthrough
Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 8, R337-R338, 27 April 2010

Abstract and restricted access to PDF file

PS (Feb 2011) I hear that the drilling didn't make it to the surface of Lake Vostok this season, the quest will continue next year ...

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