Thursday, January 6, 2011

Antarctica's hidden treasures

Under four kilometers of ice is a large lake, hidden from the eyes of the world for tens of millions of years. This could be shelter to many life forms unknown, but they can be explored without causing irreparable damage?
At great depth, as hundreds of meters of ice that dominates the Antarctic is a frozen landscape which has been isolated from the rest of the biosphere for tens of millions of years. Now researchers hope to decipher some of the mysteries of this lost world. One of the most important questions about the continent at the South Pole ice, which still has not found the answer, is whether or not forms of life in this huge lake. Lake Vostok was discovered beneath a Russian research station now more than 30 years, but evidence of its existence was confirmed only in the early '90s, using satellites and seismic measurements. Only when researchers became aware of its size. Bigger than Lake Ontario, it is estimated that it has more than 500 meters deep and is so voluminous that it could supply water throughout London for the next 5,000 years. But the most interest aspect is that Lake Vostok has been isolated from the rest of the environment for at least 15 million years. We now know that this lake is one of the approximately 150 lakes subglaciare but was the largest of the freshwater. The pressure of the ice cap of Antarctica East-the largest in the world, this lake does not allow water to freeze. It is believed that only a few feet of water just below the giant glacier is frozen, a layer known as the layer of silt. Light does not enter here, so all life should be based on a source of chemical energy to survive in the dark. Scientists believe that geothermal water from the lake bottom could provide "food" necessary to support a habitat full of living microorganisms. Lake is just below the Russian research station at Vostok Antarctica. This base was established during the Cold War, long before Russian scientists have learned about the lake. This station is located in the coldest place on earth, where winter temperatures drop below -80 degrees Celsius. Russians began to make holes in the ice many years ago using a dirty method that involves filling the hole dug with kerosene so that it does not freeze (kerosene freezes at much lower temperatures than water). Researchers have found a few meters from the lake when, eight years ago, stopped operations after reaching the layer of silt. It is understood that other researchers of the Antarctica were concerned that the digging would irreversibly contaminated lake water in kerosene and germs are on the equipment. The analysis performed on samples from the layer shows signs of happiness as they contained some microscopic creatures. The findings, however, could not be confirmed. Two years ago, after a break of eight years, a team of Russian and French began to dig again, this time using sterile equipment. This year, researchers hope to break last meters of the surface ice and bring samples for experiments. It is an ambitious plan, since not everyone is happy, some scientists feared that an accident could cause irreversible damage. They are worried and life forms that might exist here and that is believed to have appeared and evolved as isolated from the rest of the world total. But British researchers have found that some of the lakes are connected by an underground network of rivers that could be connected with the rest of the biosphere. This finding not only questions the theory that life was completely isolated from the lake along its evolution, but also raises another question: if a lake would be contaminated by mistake, would affect the entire network? A team of researchers at University College London found that the size of the Thames river could flow from one lake to another located hundreds of miles away. This discovery was made when researchers observed that while ice diving in a region, another region located far away, new buildings coming up. These changes could only be possible by moving a large volume of water under the expanse of ice. This new discovery once again puts into question the decision to drill Lake Vostok with equipment that can not be guaranteed as sterile.

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