back to article Russians drill into buried 20 million-year-old Antarctic lake

Russian scientists have drilled through to a 20-million-year-old lake under Antarctica, which, depending on who you listen to, could harbour alien life forms, prehistoric microbes or Hitler's secret hideout. An artist's cross-section of Lake Vostok An artist's cross-section of Lake Vostok. Credit: US National Science …


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  1. Pete the not so great
    Thumb Up


    A Starbucks

  2. Anonymous John

    Re "carefully decontaminated using radiation. There is no need to worry,”

    I for one, welcome our new million year old mutated glow in the dark overlords.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "“According to our research, the quantity of oxygen there exceeds that on other parts of our planet by 10 to 20 times. Any lifeforms that we find are likely to be unique on Earth,”

      Lifeforms that will presumably be killed then when the oxygen levels drop by 20 times as we punch a hole through their roof.


      1. Jonathan Richards 1

        What does that even mean?

        The word used is "quantity", explicitly not "proportion". Does it mean that there is ten times as many megatonnes of oxygen down there as everywhere else on the planet? That's absurd, so I assume the spokesbeing intended to say "proportion of oxygen there...". Then we have to understand what *that* might mean. Is it just that, due to the low temperature and high pressure, we expect dissolved oxygen levels (mg per litre) to be up to twenty times higher?

        For many lifeforms, humans included, high levels of oxygen are harmful. It doesn't seem to me that lots of oxygen would contribute to biodiversity.

  3. Jon Double Nice

    I might not be the first one to say this, but

    finding dangerous creatures hidden in an icy lake, then applying radiation to them? So now we have mutated radioactive dangerous ice creatures? I'm not convinced these people have really thought this through.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      A bit like...

      Fighting zombies with fire, then realising that all you have achieved is that you are now fighting zombies that are on fire.

  4. thefutureboy

    I for one...

    ...welcome our Nazi prehistoric zombie-making virus overlords.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Using freon instead of kerosene , well thats ok then


    It could easily poison some organisms in there. Still, knowing russians they'll fuck it up somehow and pollute the water with freon and kerosene. I doubt they much care whats in the lake, they just want to be able to boast that they did it first, wave their flag and get a pat on the back from Dictator Putin.

    1. CD001

      ... and if the Yanks had done it they'd have cut corners left, right and centre and fucked it up with a totally cavalier attitude until they've thrown enough resources to get a diver down there and see how it can be exploited (plant their own flag and get a pat on the back).

      The Brits of course haven't managed it, we probably debated it and complained about the weather a lot (brrr, it's a bit parky out) but once everyone else has managed huge amount of exploration in these remote sub-glacial lakes we'll probably send down a dustbin with some old PCB on-board which we'll promptly manage to lose.

      Have with finished with the national stereotyping yet?

      1. Armando 123

        "Have with finished with the national stereotyping yet?"

        And of course the French will be very insulted by all of this, but do nothing about it. Except stare prissily through the smoke of their Galoise.

        1. DanceMan

          The Canadians,

          after years of debate whether this was a federal or provincial responsibility, would launch a study on building an ice rink. After building it, it would be sold off cheaply to the Americans.

      2. Dinky Carter

        brrr it's a bit parky out?

        ... we Brits have traditionally come a-cropper in extreme environments by being a bit blasé about the weather.... for example Mallory strolling up Everest in tweeds.

      3. Anonymous Coward


        "Have with finished with the national stereotyping yet?"

        Yes, god forbid anyone should stereotype. After all , the russians have such an amazing record of enviromental stewardship don't they. Who wouldn't trust them to look after a pristine wilderness?

        1. eulampios

          How do you know? This might be exactly what Russians think of both the Americans and British. BTW, was it the Russians to pollute the Great Lakes of North America? You still can't take a swim in the Lake Erie. And the Russians certainly killed off most of the Wild life in Western Europe during the cold war (another well known Putin's decree.)

          1. Jonathan Richards 1

            Killed off most of the wildlife in Western Europe?

            Hmm. [citation required] I think. Here in England I've still got spiders in my garden shed, and hedgehogs and blackbirds in the garden. I regularly see wildfowl, and ants, and butterflies, not to mention large swathes of forest and non-cultivated grassland. Maybe they just *told* Mr Putin that they'd destroyed Western Europe's wildlife. Alas, and fatally for your theory, Vladimir Putin did not become Russian premier until 1999, a long time after the end of the Cold War.

            1. eulampios

              I meant the big game. Bears, wolves and such are either extinct (Germany, Britain) or consist of tiny populations. And mentioning Putin's name was an irony.

          2. Al Jones

            You can swim in Lake Erie

            The tourist agencies in New York, PA and Ohio even encourage it!

            1. eulampios

              When I jokingly mentioned that I swam there to my students in 2007 at the University of Toledo, OH. They took it seriously and told me quit doing that in the future. I was not surprised because .... well who hasn't heard about the infamous contamination of the Great Lakes?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Since we're stereotyping I'm gonna chip in too...

      To be honest it wouldn't surprise me if the US would plant several explosives and eventually blow the entire thing open, beats the time of drilling after all....

      Back to reality; I think you're giving the Russians way too little credit than they deserve. "Dictator Putin"? While I agree that their life style doesn't match our ideas of freedom I'm pretty confident than most Russians enjoy more freedom than your average Iraqi in the current "liberated" Iraq.

      1. eulampios

        Agreeing with you on this, I would say that freedom has become really relative in many parts of the world, unfortunately. Let's hope for the better future :)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the duration of commenting on this topic...

    ... will Godwin's Law be repealed?

    1. Armando 123


      Sure, invoke Godwin's Law, just like Hitler would have.

      (Sadly, the joke icon is needed here.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Godwin's Law

      Only a Nazi would dare to say such a thing!

  7. Doug Glass

    Let's hope they don't find what agents Mulder and Scully found.

    1. Silverburn

      or what Kurt Russell found.

      1. NomNomNom

        or what Danforth and Dyer found

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      The Thing

      was on my mind more, but then I am that old

      1. Stoneshop

        @Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        1. Graham Marsden

          That is not dead...

          ... which can eternal lie...!

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      or what A. Gordon Pym found.

      (Damn kids. Get off my preternaturally temperate Antarctic lawn so I can finish this narrative.)

  8. Gordon 10

    Are they Mad?


    What if R'lyeh is down there?

    1. jackharbringer


      Or even worse:

      Nazi prehistoric reanimated zombie making ancient internet meme virus owls!!!

      Will no one think of the children!

  9. G C M Roberts

    "Germany's submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuhrer on the other end of the world"

    Wasn't this Argentina & Brazil?

    Mine's the coat not allowed to stop in any South American port ;)

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      re Argentina & Brazil

      Yes indeed. But they didn't build any fortress there, they just lived their calm, aliased lifes.

  10. Sacha TF Padovani

    To celebrate the great news

    I just had to watch "The Thing", yesterday night., btw, Italian newspapers report suspicions of a 105 by 75 KILOMETERS "extremely powerful" magnetic anomaly (1000 nanoTesla) in the SW edge of the lake. Maybe a "cylindrical or circular" metallic object.

    So, it's either The Thing, or a Linguafoeda Acheronsis, or a Predator ship, or the lost city of Leng where the Old Ones dropped from between the angles of space.

    In any case, I'm bolting down windows and doors.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Don't worry - could just be a tripod placed there by an alien civilisation, waiting to be woken up so it can suck all our blood.

    2. Florence

      Brilliant, more sources for more Lovecraftian theoricizing.

      Although a US secret military base, an alien landing strip, a time travel vortex and even the Nazis somehow appear to be more popular options online.

    3. Robert Heffernan

      I'm stuck on a glacier with MacGyver

      Everyone should know they just found the Antarctic Stargate!

      You would figure a device capable of using superconductors to generate a wormhole through space (and time if you get too close to a solar flare) would create a pretty big magnetic anomaly.

      *Coat: I got my BDU, now just need my P90

  11. Rodrigo Valenzuela

    "There is no need to worry"

    Those are quite foreboding words...


  12. flearider

    you know there comming ...Resident Evil: Retribution nuff said ..

  13. Lloyd
    Thumb Up

    Unleash the Great Old Ones

    All hail to our new overlords - Yog-Sothoth, Lloigor, Zhar, Nyarlathotep,Azathoth, Cthulhu, Ghatanothoa, Shub-Niggurath and Yig (he doesn't like showy names because of a speech impediment he had as a child, terrible lisp, even worse as he's a serpent god).

    1. dogged

      Stop saying those names.

    2. A. Coatsworth Silver badge

      Giant, blind, albino penguins is the first thing to be found there...

      <-- Well, I guess having new penguin overlords is better than the alternative

    3. Armando 123


      I'm not sure, but those might be names of my sons' playmates at The Urban And MultiCultural With A Vengence Daycare Center And Latte Bar.

    4. Yag

      SO related :)

      Forgot about Shoggoth, did ya?

      1. BoldMan

        I found this notice and all it says is "hastur hastur hastur"... aaaaiiiiiiieeeeeee"

        1. hplasm

          "He actually wrote 'aaaaiiiiiiieeeeeee' did he?"

          "Well....maybe he was dictating..."

    5. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Don't forget the


  14. EddieD

    "C'thulhu fhtagn"

  15. adnim


    “According to our research, the quantity of oxygen there exceeds that on other parts of our planet by 10 to 20 times. Any lifeforms that we find are likely to be unique on Earth,” - Sergey Bula

    and suffocate.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


      An atmosphere that is 200% - 400% oxygen? I'd say they're more likely to be on fire, and squished flat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The amount of oxygen in water is tyipcally in single figures parts per million. So let's say it's 5ppm. So 10-20 times that is 50-100ppm. They won't be on fire.

        1. hplasm

          Underwater fire!

          That would be very cool...

          (Perhaps the extra O2 would balance out the nasty CO2 we have to keep climbing over, so it's not all bad news!)

  16. John I'm only dancing


    "Let's hope the Russians also plan to check whether their scientists have been taken over by parasitic lifeforms"

    We'll only know that is the case if they start talking about bonuses and how hard done by they are.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge


      They've been taken over by a parasitic lifeform in 2000. It's called Влади́мир Пу́тин.

  17. LJRich


    Drilling through ice? Kerosene? Hot water? 30 years?

    Where's the frickin' laser beams when you need them?

  18. Scott Wichall

    Would that environmentally friendly freon be the same freon that purportedly kills the ozone layer?

  19. Miguel Farah

    Beneath all the ice lies...

    ... not The Thing, not aliens, not Hitler's hideout, not Hitler's corpse, not deadly microbes, not C'thulhu. Beneath all the ice lies... my wife's sex drive.


    1. Thomas 4

      Nope, too easy

      I was going to make a rather pertinant remark about heavy drilling being needed but decided it would be inappropriate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Miguel, fixed it for you

      "... my wife's sex drive regarding me."

      1. Thomas 4

        You might even say

        ...she's a little cold towards him, or possibly even frigid.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        She seems OK whenever I see her.

        Gives me a biscuit, all that kind of thing.

    3. sisk

      If that's the case....

      Shouldn't you be happily thanking the Russians for digging it up for you?

    4. Anonymous Coward


      You actually married a snow woman?

      (sorry, couldn't resist!)

      1. hplasm

        Waiter! This ice cube's got a hole in it!

        That's no ice cube Sir, that's my wife!

        /boom *tish*

      2. DanceMan

        That snow woman, that's a ...........................

  20. Miguel Farah

    Never mind the lake, what about the terrain it's on top of?

    If I understand correctly, beneath the ice and beneath the lake itself, there's a (frozen) soil layer. It'll probably take several centuries to develop the technology to do this, but what about looking for fossils in there, from before the time Antarctica froze up?

    1. Phil Endecott

      > what about looking for fossils in there

      It's easier to do that where the rocks are exposed at the surface. I don't see why any pre-glacial fossils would be significantly different there.

  21. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "blasting radiation all round"

    And before long we'll have discovered the radiation resistant killer bacteria.

    Seriously though, I'd be more concerned that contamination from our biosphere will exterminate any potential life down there.

  22. Jan 0 Silver badge


    Well, at least kerosene is essentially natural and unlike freon isn't going to add to the ozone hole above Antartica.

    However, surely the big contamination risk is from microbes picked up by the drill, on the surface or on the way down. I hope the drill's irradiated on the way in. By all means drill the first 22km with a mechanical drill, but please bore the last 22m with a frickin' laser.

  23. Andrew Jones 2

    Um.... I don't like those maths.

    According to what I have read.... they should have frozen samples from the lake in 10 months time..... I do wish it had taken them another month..... because by my reckoning now + 10 months is December....

    When does the world end again?

    1. Dapprman

      by my reckoning

      03:14:08 on the 19th of January 2038

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I'm prepared to bet you

      a large sum of money that the world will NOT end on December 21 2012. Shall we say one hundred beeelion dollars, to be paid on the 22nd?

  24. Jim Coleman

    Obviously what's down there is a huge pyramid, built by Predators and containing Aliens, bred for their amusement.

    It'll all end in tears, I tell ya!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or a Krynoid.

  25. g e

    Instructional videos

    For people who like to dig up old shit and zap stuff with radiation...

    The Thing

    The Mummy

    The Incredible Hulk

    1. Miguel Farah

      You're missing the spider that bit Peter Parker.

  26. JDX Gold badge

    @Loyal Commenter

    >>An atmosphere that is 200% - 400% oxygen?

    What part of "lake" did you not understand

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Maybe the bit that said:

      "According to our research, the quantity of oxygen there exceeds that on other parts of our planet by 10 to 20 times."

      Other parts of the planet including, presumably, bits that aren't sub-glacial lakes?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        @Loyal Commenter

        Maybe the bit that said: #

        "According to our research, the quantity of oxygen there exceeds that on other parts of our planet by 10 to 20 times."

        Other parts of the planet including, presumably, bits that aren't sub-glacial lakes?

        So you're saying it's relevant to compare the oxygen content of a lake with the atmosphere rather than other bodies of water? We could compare it with the oxygen content of an orange, a KitKat or your head but those figures would be equally irrelevant.

        And even your own logic doesn't support your argument because "our planet" is not "the atmosphere"; in fact the atmosphere is only a tiny, tiny part of the planet.

        Sometimes it's less embarrassing to admit you made a mistake.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Polonium should do the job - they've tested it already.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also for the friends of the earth

    oxygen rich....well millions of years before we started pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, which part of natural phenomenom did you not understand?

    1. Barracoder
      Thumb Down

      Actually, Gaia loves CO2....

      For the record, we're currently living in a period of exceptionally low CO2 levels, by normal Earth standards. The only notable period with similiarly low CO2 levels is the Carboniferous Period, during which, ironically, all our coal was laid down.

  29. Toastan Buttar

    Redundant much?

    "completely unique". Grrrrrrrrrr.

  30. Flenser

    What's that I hear?

    Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!

  31. Florence
    Black Helicopters

    Actually glad the Reg is slightly late with this one

    As it gives them the chance to report on more than just that silly Russian press release - although I'm glad they point out those Nazi conspiracy theories.

    The full thing can be read here:

    "a scientific source" then hardly any details then 3 paragraphs about the Nazis.

    This was so bizarre - esp. after a week of radio silence from the scientists's camp that I spent most of my day yesterday wondering what had really happened.

    And yes most of my theories involved Elder ones, or the city or R'lyeh, or ghouls, shoggoths etc..

    Then New Scientist reported that they have indeed hit water, quoting the scientist on the expedition who explained they hit water, but couldn't be sure it was the lake they reached yet. And quashed all my theories :/

    The BBC also chose not to report the original press release, but I saw it on way too many reputable newspapers websites, as well as the Daily Mail - the first part anyway, not the Nazi conspiracy. Surely if you're going to quote a dodgy press release, then please don't leave out the dodgiest bits as it will help me make my mind up. Shame on them all.

  32. Stevie


    I gave up decent air conditioning so the Russians could eat the Ozone layer with this daft Moholesque stunt?

  33. Antony Shepherd

    The last contact from the Russian base just consisted of TEKELI-LI ... TEKELI-LI ...over and over again.

  34. Iain Leadley

    New life forms?

    Hardly, first thing they will do is kill them and chop them up to see how they used to work.

    1. Stoneshop

      @Iain Leadley

      Well, if were the Chinese doing the 'research', they'd be chopping them up and trying them for nutritional value.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Japanese...

        Catching them for "scientific research," after which, hey, might just as well eat them.

        /Another/ round of stereotypes, anybody?

  35. Piloti
    Thumb Up

    All the answers....

    ....are in WA Harbinson excellent Projekt Saucer series.

    There five in the series.

    Great Sci-fi reads!

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And I started reading Ice Station by Matthew Reilley just this morning!

  37. Anonymous Coward

    A large circular object

    They'll find a large circular object, a few meters in diameter, with a central section that rotates and has a dozen or so symbols on it, and an outer section with indicators that can be locked in as symbols are rotated under them.

    (alien, because Supreme Commander Thor would approve).

    1. engagedtone

      I wonder if Dr Jackson was on site for this?

    2. MrEee

      Fortunately the DHD is currently being studied at Area 51.

  38. ZedThePirate

    How Thick?

    How thick is: 3,700m of thick ice, compared to 3,700m of thin ice?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just the same ... but it's safer to stand on.

  39. Surreal

    Good timing, at least.

    I'm thankful it didn't occur to anyone to burrow through the ice until 30 years ago. Imagine our valiant 1950's scientists: "Say, why don't we just clear that ice out of the way with Safe Nuclear Power?"

    Lucky us, Russia used Clean Coal Technology! (i.e. kerosene)

  40. Reverend Brown
    Thumb Up

    Radioactive mutant prehistoric monsters?

    This sounds like exactly what we will need to combat the 50ft Mayans storming across our fair planet later this year.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It was a pair of Brid's unnerpants - 20 million year old an still in the wash.

    Thank goodness mankind will be saved from the worse by dutiful use of irradiating stuff.

  42. Van

    "Have with finished with the national stereotyping yet?"


    "And of course the French will be very insulted by all of this, but do nothing about it. Except stare prissily through the smoke of their Galoise."

    Any new species will be on French dinnner plates by the next morning.

  43. Boyd Crow

    Tech details missing

    I am mystified why no one has questioned the lack of important technical details about this effort. For instance, just how big is this bore hole? It took them twenty years (OK, a few years of waiting for international approval) and now they are talking about exploring with a submersible. I sincerely doubt the hole is that big. It could take decades to drill a bigger hole, if anyone really thinks a submersible could be operated reliably while exposed to such extremely high pressures of oxygen.

    In many ways, this almost sounds like a "let's just say we did it and go home for the winter" story.

  44. Lord Midas

    Ceiling Cat's bath

    Yes, it could be Ceiling Cat's bathing area.

    Though the thought of what Mulder and Scully investigated in the episode "Ice", is pretty scary.

    Then again, it could reveal an organisim that can take over and imitate a host body, and imitate it perfectly. So long as we have Kurt Russell on hand we should be ok.

    Or maybe they find a bunch of shiteating space-weevils, that Morgan Freeman will blow to kingdom-come.

    Or perhaps they discover a delicious mysterious goo that they market as yummy dessert, but which turns eveyone into mindless zombies. But at least it's low calorie and tasty.

    It could even releave an ancient pyramid, build by man, infected with Aliens and played on by Predators. So long as we have Lance Henriksen on hand we should be ok.

  45. Matthew 17

    £100 says there's nothing there

    Under that much ice it'll be in total darkness and colder than a cold thing. Not really what you want for life.

    But how are they going to explore it, send a probe down the hole?

  46. Sceptic Tank Silver badge
    IT Angle

    So many (dumb) questions. So little time!

    Why isn't the water in the lake frozen? Maybe it's a sea of vodka. And kerosene.

    Where's the IT angle? Maybe these high octane fish are using the iPhone 5 already???

  47. andy 45

    Typical man

    We're looking for life down there -- unique lifeforms -- which we'll blast with radiation, kerosene etc just to make sure it's no longer alive...

    That's typical of man -- like landing (and killing) the world's largest octopus etc etc -- WTF! Just keep it the F*** alive!!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    weren't the BBC there first?

    I remember this lake on Blue Planet, they used a bullet camera which melted the ice, displaced water and moved slowly enough that the water refroze to keep the eco system seperated.


    where did that data go?

    why drill with kerosene if we know how to do it in a controlled fashion?

  49. deadlockvictim

    More National Stereotyping

    My first thought on reading this was that our American neighhbours would be sure that the Ruskies are drilling for, and will find, oil. What else could this be about?

    Berkeley Breathed has already beaten me to the punchline, but I think it's time to bring liberty to Antarctica.

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