Sunday, March 09, 2008

All These Worlds...

...are yours, except Europa.

Tonight we attended a rarity in March, here at
McMurdo. A science lecture. Typically not a lot
of science goes on here during the winter. Mostly
the winter crew in Crary Lab maintaining projects
that see most of their activity during the summer.
However, now we're in an Extended Season period
where a great deal of science is happening. Most
of it in the Dry Valleys. Tonight Dr. John Priscu
of Project B-422-M gave an entertaining slide show,
discussing his group (about 15 scientists) and what
they are doing here until Mid-April.

Dr. Priscu told us about their study of bacterial
microbes being studied under the frozen surfaces
of Lake Hoare, Lake Bonney and Lake Fryxell and
how it similar it is to a great deal of bodies of
liquid water found under the glaciers and ice
shelf areas throughout the continent. Apparently
there are rivers the size of the Amazon and some
of the largest lakes in the world located under
this ice.

He's been working here for several decades and even
has several geographic features named after him, but
one of parts of his presentation I found most interesting
was the discussion of his work at Lake Vostok. Lake
Vostok is the size of Lake Ontario and is located under
2 1/2 miles of ice directly below Vostok Station. The
Russians several years ago began drilling for ice cores
in this area and inadvertently found the lake. Now they
are making plans to "safely" puncture the "roof" of the
ice covering the lake to draw core samples of ice from
the lake. All very complicated stuff.

In the Q/A section at the end, I asked John if he had
been working with the group that wants to send probes
to Europa. Europa is the moon of Jupiter that many
feel is most like the Dry Valley lakes or even Lake
Vostok. Lakes covered by ice, yet very liquid in nature.
Lynn and I are big fans of Europa since it's featured
in one of our favorite movies: 2010, staring the late
Roy Scheider. And yes, he has been working with these
folks and he said that the ice on Europa could be thinner
and much easier to punch through than that of Vostok.
Interesting stuff...and the reason we are having an
Extended Season...The study of microbes in perpetually
frozen lakes.


Jude said...


Lori Murray said...

I'm glad they didn't contaminate Lake Vostok with all that diesel the Russians have been using for freeze protection. Wouldn't it be fun to go to Europa?