[ http://myscienceacademy.org/2013/02/14/antarctic-lake-drilling-team-discovers-life-under-ice/ ]
[ http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/02/antarctic-researchers-find-life-in-subglacial-lake.html ]
Antarctic lake-drilling team discovers Life under ice. After weeks of intense field work, scientists confirm microbes beneath Antarctic glaciers, in Lake Whillans trapped under the frozen continent’s ice sheet.
John Priscu the leader of the team, said:
Lake Whillans definitely harbors life. It appears that there lies a large wetland ecosystem under Antarctic’s ice sheet, with an active microbiology.
What we are all dying to find out now is, of course, ‘who’s there’ and’what’s their life style’.”
The team put a camera down the borehole to make sure that the borehole was wide enough for sampling instruments to be deployed and returned safely. It was, and over the next few days, the scientists collected some 30 litres of liquid lake water and eight sediment cores from the lake’s bottom, each 60 centimeters long.
What precious stuff they had retrieved soon became clear under the onsite microscope. Both water and sediment contained an array of microbes that did not need sunlight to survive. The scientists counted about 1,000 bacteria per millilitre of lake water roughly one-tenth the abundance of microbes in the oceans. In Petri dishes, the bacteria show a ‘really good growth rate’...
~ Russian scientist defends Lake Vostok life claims ~
[ http://www.nature.com/news/russian-scientist-defends-lake-vostok-life-claims-1.12578 ]
The Russian scientist who is leading an effort to analyse samples from a lake buried under almost 4 kilometres of Antarctic ice has hit back against criticism that an unknown species of bacterium discovered by the team was in fact contamination.
At an international scientific meeting in Moscow on 6 March, Sergey Bulat of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Gatchina said that water from Lake Vostok contained a bacterium whose DNA was less than 86% similar to DNA from known bacterial species. But other researchers argue that announcement was premature because the bacterium might just have been a contaminant from the drilling fluid.
“They really need to stop playing around with frozen lake water bathed in kerosene and get a clean bulk water sample,” says John Priscu, a glaciologist at Montana State University in Bozeman who in January led a US expedition to Antarctica’s Lake Whillans, a comparatively small, shallow body of water beneath 800 metres of Antarctic ice.
- Lake-drilling team discovers life under the ice
- Antarctic researchers find life in subglacial lake
- Life abounds in Antarctic lake sealed under ice
But Bulat stands by the claim, and says that the team took steps to rule out potential contamination.
“We are very sure that what we have found is an unclassified native microbe,” Bulat says. “It seems to belong to a division of uncultured environmental bacteria that haven’t been determined yet.”
The Russian team broke through into the pristine lake in February 2012. At roughly the size of Lake Ontario, Vostok is by far the largest of the 300 or so subglacial lakes beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet. A preliminary analysis, reported last October, suggested that the upper layers of the lake were lifeless. But tests carried out since have revealed that this is not the case, says Bulat. Genetic analysis has revealed three variants of the bacterium that cannot be assigned to bacterial lineages described in global databases, he says.
A Russian team completed drilling 4,000 metres into Lake Vostok in February last year.
The scientists have not yet established the mysterious microbe’s physiology and biochemistry, and they do not know how it might extract energy from its pitch-dark and nutrient-poor environment. More sophisticated tests, including whole-genome sequencing, will be required to answer these and other questions, says Bulat.
However, he says, the high level of contamination — the current samples contain as much drill fluid as lake water — and the meagre numbers of bacteria, just 167 cells per millilitre, mean that these analyses cannot yet be done. He hopes that samples from a 54-metre-long ‘fresh-frozen’ ice core drilled during the 2012–13 season and expected to arrive in St Petersburg in May will reveal more about the genetics of microbial life in Lake Vostok, he says.
Other researchers say that they would be surprised if Lake Vostok is totally devoid of life. The US team has already reported the presence of microbes in water and sediment samples retrieved from Lake Whillans. Those samples are currently being analysed in US labs. But many point out that about 90% of the bacteria on Earth remain uncultured and unsequenced, so finding bacterial DNA that doesn’t fully match that of well-classified taxa is not very surprising.
“It happens quite a lot,” says Brent Christner, a microbiologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and one of the researchers analysing the Lake Whillans samples.
The Russian team may have found differences of a few hundred base pairs to species in the databases, but this is “neither remarkable nor diagnostic” agrees David Pearce, a microbiologist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Nonetheless, he says, the Russian findings — if they hold up — are “an encouraging and positive first step“.
~ Lake Vostok, a German Nazi base? Russian news agency floats odd theory ~
[ http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/lake-vostok-was-once-a-german-nazi-base-russian-news-agency-says/2012/02/07/gIQAKo9RwQ_blog.html ]
When state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti released a report Monday that said Russian scientists had drilled into the deep, dark and previously untouched Lake Vostok, a curious detail was buried farther down in the story:
“An old theory [says] that German Nazis may have built a secret base there as early as the 1930s.”
Vostok Station. (Courtesy of NOAA)Ria Novosti reported that near the end of the World War II, the Nazis moved to the South Pole and began constructing a base at Lake Vostok. The agency quotes German Grand Admiral Karl Dontiz, who apparently said in 1943: “Germany's submarine fleet is proud that it created an unassailable fortress for the Fuehrer on the other end of the world,” in Antarctica.
Is there any truth to the Russian rumors? Or is this a case of a news agency implementing Godwin’s law — the longer a discussion goes, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis approaches.
Taken another way: Why isn’t it enough to relish in the sheer awe of reaching 2.2 miles below the surface of Antarctica to explore a hidden lake?
Discovery News scoffs at the idea of a Nazi base there, calling it “Nazi paranoia” and “World War II conspiracy theories” from Moscow. The Moscow Times dismisses the idea as just “rumors.” Most news sites, including The Post, ignored Ria Novosti’s theory.
But several blogs probed further, pointing out that the theory had previously appeared in a horror novel.
A similar secret German base actually appeared in a computer game inspired by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness.” The base, called “Neuschwabenland,” is located in a real region in the Antarctic known as Queen Maud’s Land on most maps. On Google Maps, Queen Maud’s Land today looks like this, with glaciers and more recent campsites indicated with blue markers:
(Google Maps)Queen Maud’s Land is located farther north in Antarctica than Lake Vostok.
But while “Neuschwabenland” appears in several horror novels, the Big Think suggests that it may also have actually existed:
Ever since it achieved unification in 1871, Germany craved colonies as a matter of national pride. But by the late nineteenth century, most of the “uncivilized world” was already carved up by established European powers.Ambitions . . . were turned to the last great area of the globe that was not yet colonized: Antarctica — big, cold and empty. At the beginning of 1939, a Nazi expedition explored a hitherto uncharted area of the Antarctic. By foot and plane, the Nazis surveyed an area . . . totaling 600.000 sq. km. They called it “Neuschwabenland.”While the Germans drew up a map of the possible territory of Neuschwabenland, and even dropped German flags on a possible base camp, no official activities were ever registered in the whole of Antarctica during World War II, according to the Big Think.
“A plethora of rumors maintains that Neuschwabenland wasn’t abandoned by the Nazis after the first expedition,” the Big Think writes.
But for now, the rumors of a base camp on Lake Vostok and Neuschwabenland will remain just that — rumors. Or the setting for a future James Bond movie...