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Moscow (UPI) Feb 2, 2012
Russian researchers say their drilling project is close to breaching a prehistoric lake trapped deep beneath Antarctica for the last 14 million years.
The 20-year-project is about to reach Lake Vostok, the largest in a sub-glacial web of more than 200 lakes hidden beneath 2 1/2 miles of Antarctic ice, WiredUK reported Thursday.
The lakes are rich in oxygen with levels 50 times higher than in a typical freshwater lake, believed to be the result of the enormous weight and pressure of the continental ice cap.
The conditions in Lake Vostok are thought to be similar to the conditions on Jupiter's moon Europa and Saturn's tiny moon Enceladus, believed to possess a massive saltwater reservoir beneath its icy surface.
Finding life in the dark, inhospitable depths of Vostok would strengthen the case for life in the outer solar system, researchers said.
Russian engineers said if they are successful in breaching the lake, they plan to send a swimming robot into the lake in the Antarctic summer of 2012 into 2013 to collect water samples and sediments from the bottom.
Cracked glacier to produce giant iceberg
The crack was first spotted in the Pine Island Glacier in October, and a NASA satellite captured the new image on Nov. 12, the New York Daily News reported.
The crack has grown to 260 feet wide and 195 feet deep, NASA scientists said, and a huge iceberg will eventually separate from the glacier and float into the open ocean.
Ice shelves are thinning at an accelerated pace due to global warming, researchers said, although the crack in the Pine Island Glacier appears to be part of the natural process of iceberg formation.
"It's part of a natural cycle, but it's still very interesting and impressive to see up close," NASA scientist Michael Studinger said at the time of the October discovery.
Beyond the Ice Age
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