Scientists Ready to Explore Mysterious
Lost World Two Miles Below Antarctica

"Nobody knows why lakes should exist under the largest body of ice on the planet. Antarctica was once a mild, forested landscape: even now, geologists are still discovering fossil ferns and carnivorous dinosaurs in the polar mountains."

So tell me there is nothing to the earth's crustal shift, or a change in the tilt of the axis theories......!
Dave



Copyright 1998 Nando.net
Copyright 1998 Scripps Howard 


LONDON (April 6, 1998 00:37 a.m. EDT http://www.nando.net) --
Scientists are poised to explore a mysterious lost world more than two
miles below Antarctica. A huge lake, insulated by millions of years of
ice, could hold living creatures that inhabited the planet more than 30
million years ago.

British, French, German, Russian and American scientists met in St.
Petersburg last week to agree on what will, in effect, be a landing on
another planet: the painstaking venture into a body of water the size
of Lake Ontario, more than 12,000 feet under the icecap at the Russian
base of Vostok.

The lake was "mapped" by space-based and ground-based instruments in
1996, and the Russians have penetrated to within 150 yards of the
surface of the water. But then the drilling had to stop.

The researchers face a dilemma. They have to find a way to explore the
mysterious world of Lake Vostok without contaminating it with life from
the surface.

They know that there will be forms of life down there: Russian and
American microbiologists have been examining microbes in samples of ice
laid down 400,000 years ago.

"We've found some really bizarre things.-- things that we have never
seen before," said Richard Hoover of NASA. He and his Russian colleague
have given the microscopic creatures temporary nicknames, such as
Klingon, Mickey Mouse, Porpoise and Sphere. The discovery at such
depths raises the hope that even stranger things lie waiting to be
discovered under Vostok.

Dr Cynan Ellis-Evans of the British Antarctic Survey, one of the
experts at the St Petersburg meeting, said the researchers were likely
to use a hot-water lance to cut deeper into the ice. Then they plan to
lower a thermal probe, which will sterilize itself as it descends. The
ice will freeze again and close behind it. When the "cryobot" reaches
the water, it will release a "hydrobot" to begin sampling the chemistry
of the lake.

"It's a one way trip, isolating itself from microbes in the upper ice,"
he said. "We are expecting to find new things -- and yes, it is like
going to another planet. People who work on Martian environments and
the Jovian system all came along and said it had exactly the same feel."

Nobody knows why lakes should exist under the largest body of ice on
the planet. Antarctica was once a mild, forested landscape: even now,
geologists are still discovering fossil ferns and carnivorous dinosaurs
in the polar mountains.

The glaciers began to close over the continent 40 million years ago.
Lake Vostok could be in a rift valley -- a deep fissure in the
continent's crust -- and if it is, the huge depth of sediment below the
water could be a "time capsule" of the planet's history.

Some geologists argue that there could be some form of volcanic heat
deep providing the energy for unusual forms of life.

But there are other hypotheses: for instance, ice may have melted to
form the lake as it sheared over the bedrock.

"I'm more of the feeling that there wasn't a lake to start with: that
one evolved in more recent times," said Dr. Ellis-Evans.

The voyage of discovery will take years. NASA scientists regard the
project as a rehearsal for the exploration of the ocean of Jupiter's
moon Europa, another mysterious body of water, trapped under miles of
ice.

Life depends on water, and Mars once had rivers but is now arid. U.S.
scientists want to launch an orbiter to explore Europa -- and then
devise a nuclear-powered probe to drive through the crust and into the
ocean beneath the surface.

They expect to learn valuable lessons from Lake Vostok. Other
researchers hope to learn a lot more about planet Earth.

Antarctica is 58 times as big as Britain, and more than 99 percent of
it is covered in thick ice -- but there could be hundreds of lakes
below the ice sheet.

"Every single one of them could be, potentially, of significance," said
Ellis-Evans.

"This is a whole new world opening up for us."


By TIM RADFORD, The Guardian

Copyright 1998 Nando.net                                              




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