Friday, January 7, 2011

At the 14 Million Year Old Lake of Madness

We are truly on the verge of art imitating life imitating art, as an intrepid team of Russian scientists plans to poke a hole into Lake Vostok.

You know about Lake Vostok, yes?  Of course you do.  It's a pretty common conversation piece around the barber shop and coffee shop and corner bar.  14 million years old body of subglacial water the size of Lake Ontario, about a mile and a half below the surface ice.  Super oxygenated and warmed by geothermal vents.  Possibly filled with creatures (great and small) that don't know that we're coming, and probably don't want to be disturbed.  Most definitely rife with evidence of life we've never seen before, left to evolve in an undisturbed crock pot for millions of years.  Yeah, THAT Lake Vostok, which seems to be the lynch pin to the mystery and monumental potential of a frozen continent spinning alone and forgotten at the bottom of the world.

Montage by Andrea Bonazzi
Antarctica has fascinated writers (Poe, Lovecraft, Verne, etc.), conspiracy theoristsNazis, and and Russian scientists who spit vodka in the face of lethal cold for centuries.  Thousands of miles of ice hide billions of years of pre-human history in a harsh land almost unreachable, and nearly uninhabitable.

It's the last sea level wilderness we have left, and now we're going to crack it open, poke a needle inside, and see what bubbles out.  Humanity can't help itself.  Its what humanity does, for good and for ill.  We're going to take another bite of that apple, chew, swallow, and wait for the outcome. 

We're going to see what's down there, deep under the ice, where it's been percolating undisturbed for eons.  Will it be bacterium that greets us with wide, blinded eyes, or something a wee bit bigger?
In HPL's "At the Mountains of Madness," Captain Lake reported that his findings in Antarctica confirm his belief "that earth has seen whole cycles of organic life before known one that begins with Archaeozoic cells," and predicts that this "[w]ill mean to biology what Einstein has meant to mathematics and physics."

Will we find something alive?  Or will we find remnants of something long dead?  Which would flatten the world more, and make us re-examine everything we once thought about life, the past, and our place not just on this planet, but in the cosmos and beyond? 


  1. I'm just hoping they find something extraordinary!

    But in the meantime, if you need a little Lovecraftian storytelling to put you in the right mood for the reports from the Lake Expedition, I mean the Lake Vostok Expedition, give a listen to Lovecraft's tale as mentioned below:

    "At the Mountains of Madness" the complete, unabridged William Hart reading of the original 1931 H. P. Lovecraft novella that Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron are about to base their 3D Universal Studios movie upon, is now freely available in MP3 format for downloading from several online sites.

    The novella is twelve chapters long, and runs about 4-1/2 hours.

    Find it, and more Lovecraftian readings at:

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  2. Thanks for the heads up, CW1. Much appreciated, as always.

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