There’s finally been an official announcement from the Russian team that they did penetrate the ancient lake, just in time for them to leave.
From their website: http://www.aari.ru (click image for full text):
“The 57th Russian Antarctic expedition has penetrated the waters of the subglacial Lake Vostok,” Valery Lukin, head of the Russian Antarctic expedition, said in a statement.
After 20 years of stop-go drilling, the Russian team raced to chew through the final metres of ice and breached Lake Vostok in time to take the last flight out on Feb. 6 before the onset of Antarctica’s harsh winter. It was here that the coldest temperature found on Earth, minus 89.2 Celsius (minus 128.6 Fahrenheit), was recorded.
Lukin said the breakthrough came on Feb. 5, on the eve of the mission’s departure: “At a depth of 3,769 metres (12,365 ft) the drill bit made contact with the real body of water.
“The discovery of this lake is comparable to the first space flight in its technological complexity, its importance and its uniqueness,” Lukin told Interfax.
But Russia must wait for the Antarctic summer to collect and study water samples, leaving the door open for U.S. and British missions to explore two other subglacial lakes and beat it to be the first to answer the question of whether life exists under the polar ice.
[...] But the drive to explore this unspoilt environment is not without controversy.
The Russian borehole, pumped full of kerosene and freon to keep it from freezing shut, hangs like a needle over the pristine lake. “The ice core at Vostok is there and it won’t go away because it is full of anti-freeze,” said Siegert.
[...] Russia will core out the frozen sample next season.
It’s a relief to know The Thing didn’t get them. This year.
- Feb. 11: Antarctica and the Russian scientists: was Vladimir Putin really given a flask of Lake Vostok water?
- Feb. 3: Meanwhile in Antarctica
- Feb. 6: update