First off, some back story. This will end up as a mini-editorial, but some of you will find this very interesting. Lake Vostok is a large (10,000km2), presumably fresh water body located under some 4km of ice in East Antarctica. The lake is not some little pool of water, its a gigantic, 250km long and 50km wide.
Because the lake is under kilometres of frozen ice, it has been untouched by todays technology and hence, the hands of man. The contents of this secret under-the-ice lake, have not seen the light of day for more than 20 million years. Because of this long period of pure isolation, it is believed that the water inside Lake Vostok could contain new, never-before-seen lifeforms, and unique geochemical processes.
For the past five-plus years, Russia and the United States have been seeking to probe Vostok in order to discover its underlying secrets from this pure, pristine body of water. The problem associated with such an untouched body of water is that as soon as it is discovered, tested and exposed, we would have contaminated it in multiple ways. Because of its long period of isolation, it cannot be explored without the introduction of the outside world, i.e. us.
NASA and the US Space Agency have both expressed interested in penetrating Lake Vostok in order to search for microbes that might be similar to those on other planets. NASA's Chric Mackay has said:
How the bacteria get energy (to survive) is an important question. The lake could be an analog to sub-ice Europa or subsurface Mars where conditions are similar.
Another issue with Lake Vostok is the sheer temperature, some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded on Earth have been at Lake Vostok. The coldest temperature ever observed on Earth was recorded there on 21 July 1983, at an astonishing minus 83-degrees celcius (minus 128-degrees fahrenheit). The reason the lake stays in liquid form is the from the geothermal heat from the Earth's interior heats the bottom of the lake up, to keep it from solidifying, with the ice sheet on top insulating the lake from cold temperatures on the surface.
Fast forward to today from Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) have been their closest the the waters surface, with temperatures dropping to minus 40-degrees celcius, the team has to work fast before they have to abandon the efforts until the Southern Hemisphere summer comes around again, in December of this year.
This is where things go Hollywood.
The team has not been heard from for over 5 days now, according to FoxNews. Dr. John Priscu, Professor of Ecology at Montana State University spoke of the news to FoxNews.com through e-mail. The team are only 40 feet from their goal, winter arrives in the coming weeks, where temperatures dramatically drop, sometimes by double what they are now.
The question is now: where are the scientists? Why have they not been heard from for 5 days? Surely there's alternate methods of communication, Internet, Satellite, etc. Either something catastrophic has happened, or they've discovered something and are now covering it up. A conspiracy? Say it isn't so! Well, it happens more than you think, and here's a possibility.
Surely you'd have read this article, and thought, 'hmm, conspiracy, yeah right!' Well, consider this: President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson is currently in Antarctica, with Al Gore, and a host of scientists. That's not all, the exploration also includes famous Avatar, Terminator and Aliens director James Cameron, as well as billionaires Richard Branson and Ted Turner. They are reportedly down there to "explore the melting ice cap in Antarctica and discuss how the nations of the world can unite in realistic action against Climate change."
Considering we're headed into a Solar Maximum this year, with more solar flares (M- and X-class flares) hitting us, scientists of the world think a few piddly cars (compared to the power of the Universe, and our Sun) is creating "global warming". Others included in the exploration are:
James Hansen from NASA, Yao Tandong from China, Christiana Figueres from UNFCCC and scientists from Harvard and leading universities in Europe. The exploration ends on February 6th.
Is it just a coincidence that all of those super-powerful people are there? And the Russian team goes radio silent for 5 days?
I hope you've found this interesting, and learnt something new, and if there's anyone with information or someone 'on the inside' or 'in the know' that could help us with more information on the scientists and the 5 days of radio silence, drop me an e-mail!
Further Reading: Read and find more Science, Space & Robotics news at our Science, Space & Robotics news index page.