Results from Antarctic lake drill on hold

March 1, 2013 at 5:04 PM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, March 1 (UPI) -- Russian scientists obtaining samples from a frozen Antarctic lake say it could take months to determine if life exists in the water from 2 miles beneath ice.

"Let's maintain the intrigue a little longer," Vladimir Lipenkov, a climatologist at Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, told RIA Novosti.

The samples from Lake Vostok, an ancient lake sealed under miles of ice, are on a research vessel, which is to will return to St. Petersburg, Russia, from the Southern Hemisphere in May, Lipenkov said.

Analysis of the samples will then start, he said.

The largest sub-glacial lake in Antarctica, Lake Vostok may contain unique microscopic life-forms that evolved after it was isolated from the outside world by the ice sheet 18 million years ago, the researchers said.

The scientists completed a project to drill through the ice into the lake and gathered samples of water that froze in the borehole in January.

The Antarctic findings could give clues to life under extreme conditions similar to those found outside the Earth, Valery Lukin, head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, said.

"I'd compare it to space research," Lukin said. "Understanding of the sub-glacial environment expands human knowledge, the same as studying other objects of the solar system."

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