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FEATURE ARTICLE

Antarctica's Lake Vostok

Specialists in disciplines ranging from glaciology to engineering are preparing to explore the world's largest subglacial lake

Martin Siegert

Near the South Pole, hidden under four kilometers of polar ice, lies a body of water the size of Lake Ontario. Scientists have had clues to its existence for decades. But in recent years this curious place—called Lake Vostok—has come under intense scientific scrutiny. Interest arises, in part, because advances in satellite surveying and radar probing of the ice have helped to delineate the extent of this and other subglacial lakes in Antarctica. But more importantly, researchers are now formulating ways to implant robotic probes in Lake Vostok and explore the microbial life that has evolved there during the past million years or more, presumably in complete isolation from the rest of the biosphere.


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