Previous: Cavitation
Next: The Mayan Calendar & 2012



View count:287,439
Last sync:2023-01-27 02:30
Hank gets to the bottom of an exciting, and kinda weird, announcement from Russian scientists at the Vostok Research Station in Antarctica. Have they reached a 20-million-year old underground lake? Maybe! Is there a hoard of Nazi secrets down there too? No!

**EDIT** Confirmation of reaching the lake came this morning! For more check out the article from the New York Times:

Follow SciShow on Twitter:
Like SciShow on Facebook:
[SciShow intro] Hank Green: Hello and welcome to SciShow's Breaking News! We'll be posting quick updates like this once a week on Wednesdays or, ya know, whenever something happens that you need to understand better because that's what I'm here for. And today I want to tell you about a discovery underway at the bottom of the world that's been millions of years in the making. On Monday, Russia's state media made a controversial announcement that, after more than two decades of work, Russian scientists have finally drilled through Antarctica's ice sheet to reach a pristine, prehistoric lake beneath its surface. According to the report, the team drilled through 3.8 kilometers (or 2.3 miles) of ice to reach the biggest lake under Antarctica, Lake Vostok. It's thought to be one of the largest lakes in the world. But they did not -- I repeat, did not -- find Nazis. More on that in a second. When this breakthrough is confirmed, which we're still waiting for, though I'm sure you've seen reports all over the internet that we're not waiting for it, we are still waiting for it. It'll be the first time that a so-called sub-glacial lake has been breached, and the scientific community is pretty psyched about it. That's because researchers believe that, even though Lake Vostok has one of the harshest environments on Earth, there may be weird, never-before-seen living things down there. What's even possibly more cool is that the lake has been under these miles of ice for as much as 20 million years. So if there's anything down there, it may have been evolving in complete isolation from the rest of Earth's biosphere. Yeah. Funny thing is that the announcement about this, issued by the Russian agency, the RIA Novosti, casually adds the observation, and I quote: “With the current events happening at Lake Vostok, an old theory saying that German Nazis may have built a secret base there as early as the 1930s, has resurfaced.” It goes on to recount that “rumors” about Nazis having traveled to the South Pole by submarine after World War II who, again I am quoting, “constructed an ice cave and supposedly stored several boxes of relics from the Third Reich, including Hitler's secret files.” Now, to be clear, it doesn't that say any of this stuff happened, or that they found any Nazi stuff down there. I mean, Russians have been at Vostok station since the 1950s. So I don't know why this is in their press release. To clear things up, I contacted the US advisor to the Russian team, microbiologist John Priscu at Montana State University. He said simply, "Don't believe the Nazi submarine story or any others like it -- Antarctica attracts lore like no other continent." Instead, he stressed that “Vostok and other sub-glacial lakes are the last frontiers of exploration on our planet.” Finally reaching the lake, he said, “will transform the way we do science in Antarctica and provide us with an entirely new view of what exists under the vast Antarctic ice sheet.” Priscu explained that Vostok's ecosystem is not only incredibly isolated, it's also extreme; the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth -- −89 °C (−129 °F) -- was taken at Vostok Station in 1983. Whaaa -89, no thank you, I'll just stick with this Montana winter. So conditions under the lake may end up being similar to those on Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus, both of which are believed to have liquid, although salty, water beneath their frozen surfaces. Priscu expects to find bacteria in the lake that get their energy from minerals rather than from sunlight or organic sources, somewhat like extremophiles that have been discovered near hot deep-sea vents. In any case, Priscu says he's not going to pop any champagne until the Russian program itself makes an official announcement. Presumably, one that won't mention Nazis. And since winter's coming in the Southern Hemisphere, we won't really know what the lake holds for several months. After contact is made with the lake, the team plans to let lake water rise into the hole and freeze until austral summer returns, when the real exploration of Lake Vostok will begin. Meanwhile, teams from the US and Britain are gearing up to start drilling into two other, smaller sub-glacial lakes and hope to have researched them by this time next year as well. So the race is on! We'll keep you posted on all of this, but in the meantime, if you have a tip, an idea, or just a question you'd like us to answer, you can contact us through Facebook, through Twitter, and of course in the YouTube comments below. We'll see you on Friday with more SciShow news.