Over 22 years after Russia began drilling in unforgiving temperatures of 40 degrees below zero — or, as the Russians refer to it, “balmy” — a team of scientists has finally reached a vast, subterranean lake located 2.4 miles beneath the surface of Antarctica. Lake Vostok, which has been completely isolated for over 20 million years, may contain ancient microbial life that could shed light on the origins of life on Earth, and possibly elsewhere. “It’s like exploring another planet, except this one is ours,” a Columbia University glaciologist tells the AP.
The breakthrough represents “a major discovery avidly anticipated by scientists around the world,” but nowhere so much as Russia, where the achievement is being hailed by the head of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Valery Lukin, as a triumph … over the United States:
Lukin has previously compared the Lake Vostok effort to the moon race that the Soviet Union lost to the United States, telling the Russian media he was proud that Russia will be the first this time.
Welll, yeah, but it wasn’t really a race this time, was it? Just kind of you guys, going at it alone. We’ve been keeping busy with other stuff, mostly. Not exactly a heated competition like the race to the moon, where both sides were like, “Aaahh, we have to get to the moon before the other guy!” But, you know, still, sincere congratulations on completing this very difficult personal quest of yours.