August 14, 2003
Pop goes Antarctica

Great. As if I don't have enough to worry about:

If Russian researchers in Antarctica succeed in drilling through the final 396 feet of nearly 2-1/2 miles of ice to reach an ancient, unexplored lake underneath, scientists at NASA warn the hole could cause an eruption that spews water thousands of feet into the air.

The American scientists speculate that the water in pristine Lake Vostok, filled with gases and pressurized under tons and tons of ice, would act like a carbonated drink in a can that's shaken and then popped open.

Their concern is that the lake water, which has not been exposed to Earth's atmosphere in as many as 15 million years, might become contaminated with microbes and chemicals from the surface. And unsuspecting researchers could get injured by an icy blast from the lake.

In an article published last month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, Chris McKay at NASA-Ames Research Center and his colleagues issued a simple message to the Russians: Be careful.

"Imagine opening a can of Coke," McKay said. "We know from experience that you can do it carefully, no problem. But if you didn't do it carefully, there would be problems."

All righty, then. Nobody shake Antarctica before the Russians pop it open, OK?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 14, 2003 to Around the world | TrackBack