As a symbolic gesture, Russian scientists presented Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a water sample taken from Lake Vostok, the lake that has been hidden under Antarctica’s ice for over a million years. Russian scientists were the first to successfully drill down to the untainted water, an accomplishment being celebrated in Russia as a major scientific achievement. More importantly, it is yet another example of Russia beating out the United States in something. NASA heavily protested Russian efforts to drill down into the waters of Lake Vostok because of fears that the pristine nature of the lake would be compromised. However, Russia ignored the protests and continued to attempt to penetrate the layers of ice over 2.3 miles thick, succeeding this past week.
The reason scientists are excited about the water beneath the ice in Lake Vostok is that it has been effectively isolated from the rest of the Earth for millions of years. There is a school of thought that lifeforms existing in Lake Vostok might have proceeded through a much different evolutionary process than other lifeforms on Earth, especially with the tough living conditions they have endured. It is quite possible that scientists will discover entirely new species of life with capabilities as yet unheard of. Furthermore, this could be a good practice run on Earth for what might happen if a similar situation were discovered on another planet or moon in the solar system. Mars’ ice caps is one possibility that comes to mind, as well as the moon of Saturn, Europa, that has similar icy characteristics.