Mystery builds as Russians quit drilling for season. The drill lies less than 50 feet from subglacial Lake Vostok environment. Russians leave a two mile borehole filled with kerosene to prevent freezing, until drilling resumes in December. Mystery surrounds the lake even thicker than the two miles of ice covering it. There is a reluctance to penetrate an environment separated from the rest of the world for thousands of years. The pristine lake could be contaminated in the process, but release of pressurized gases is also a concern.
Vostok station was established in 1957 by the Russians, who suspected the presence of water. A.P.Kapitsa attempted to verify a freshwater lake by seismic measurements in the fifties and sixties, but data failed to confirm it. Russian scientists were convinced though physical pressure exerted by the ice sheets, could reach melting temperatures.
In 1974, British scientists did a radar survey by flying over Antarctica and uncovered the terrain below ice of predominantly mountains, and on Christmas Day, what appeared to be a lake. A satellite study by space-based radar in 1991 confirmed the presence of one of the largest lakes in the world. A documentary, "The Lost World of Lake Vostok," provides an excellent summary of efforts made in the discovery.
Lake Vostok lies not only two miles down in complete darkness, but apparently a very old and deep lake. Vostok is about the size of Lake Ontario but with twice the volume and almost half as deep as Lake Baikal--the deepest lake in the world. NASA became interested because of similarities to Europa and viewed the lake as a testing ground.
Mystery helped propagate rumors a decade ago, when a NASA press conference was interrupted after allusions to "national security" concerns and intervention by the NSA.
The Art Bell show contributed to controversy with statement on air scientists were suffering ailments after returning from the South Pole. A McMurdo Station physician made a comment at the time to his replacement, "fill your pockets with salt," a hint to bring
iodine tablets because of radiation. It didn't end there.
Two million missing Nazis and base 211 have been tied to the lake. A 2009 Science Daily article can be worked into the conspiracy web, reporting a dynamic network of lakes below Antarctica--what better place for Nazi U-boats? The conspiracy-fest continues with possibility a large crystal, which powered legendary Atlantis, is the source of the magnetic anomaly detected at one end of Lake Vostok.
Is all the hype comic book fantasy or disinfo agents at work to obfuscate reality? Worse, has a virus we haven't encountered been released? Or, is the South Pole going to suffer a similar fate as the Gulf of Mexico? We won't have long to wait, December is the last month before apocalyptic 2012!