One week after pausing with about 40 feet to go, Russian scientists today announced that they have successfully drilled through two miles of ice to reach Lake Vostok — a body of water the size of New Jersey that hasn’t been touched for millions of years.
The Google translation from Russian on this webpage is a little rough, but you can see that the team says the breakthrough came over the weekend.
Now, as The New York Times reports, the Russians say that an initial spurt of water that rose up from the lake has frozen in the drill hole — as expected. It’s likely that water has been contaminated with some of the chemicals used during the drilling. The plan is to return next December and only then draw clean water from the lake.
As NPR’s Richard Harris has reported, the drilling has been going on for about 50 years. Scientists are eager to see if anything might be living in the lake and might add to evolutionary science.
Lake Vostok is warmed by geothermal energy. According to The Associated Press, “scientists from other nations hope to follow up this discovery with similar projects. American and British teams are drilling to reach their own subglacial Antarctic lakes.”