ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Russian scientists drilling into the Antarctic's Lake Vostok, 13,000 feet beneath the continent's ice sheet, say they are in a race against the weather.
With the Antarctic summer almost over, temperatures will soon drop and the scientists will have to depart by Feb. 6 while conditions are still mild enough for a plane to land at the remote Vostok base, the BBC reported Friday.
The researchers have been drilling non-stop for weeks, the BBC said.
"It's like working on an alien planet where no one has been before," said Valery Lukin, deputy head of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg, which oversees the project.
"We don't know what awaits us down there," he said, noting that personnel at the station have been drilling 24 hours a day and have less than 160 feet to go.
The Russian team says they hope to find life forms that have never been seen before in the lake, sealed off from the rest of the world by its cover of ice for millions of years.
Scientists say conditions in Lake Vostok have probably remained unchanged for some 15 million years.