Russians plan to drill into untouched Antarctic lake

The world’s seventh-largest freshwater lake is locked under a giant Antarctic ice sheet and has never been exposed to human contact — but Russian scientists have drilled within 425 feet of it, and, despite pleas from scientists and environmentalists, intend to drill in all the way over the next two summers. Lake Vostok, approximately 5,000 square miles in area and over half a mile deep, likely contains unique aquatic life, perhaps thanks to the presence of geothermal vents. “At these vents you can get tube worms meters high. … you could probably get some pretty bizarre things,” says Antarctic researcher John Priscu. “You could even have fish.” Or perhaps you could have dead fish, if the lake becomes contaminated by the kerosene and chemicals that lubricate the over-two-mile-deep drill hole. The Russian Antarctic Expedition considers its drilling legit, having cleared its proposal through the Antarctic Treaty’s environmental approval system — which has no capacity to veto.