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Published February 06, 2012, 10:33 PM

Scientists begin research into underground Antarctic lake

Antarctica (WDAY TV) _ It's one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world and until today, humans have never even touched the water in it.

It's one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world and until today, humans have never even touched the water in it.

It's called Lake Vostok and its buried two miles below the ice in Antarctica. Today a team of Russian scientists drilled into the lake for the first time. This lake below the ice may lead to new scientific discoveries.

Adam Lewis – NDSU Geology Professor: “It may have been sealed from the atmosphere from other environments for millions of years so the idea is there may be life forms down there that haven't interacted with any other life forms for a long, long time.”

There has been a debate over the last several years as to whether the Russian scientists should drill into the lake because of the contamination the drill itself would bring to the lake.

Adam Lewis: “If they’ve figured out a way to clean their drill, and it’s clean enough that they can get in their without introducing anything, then sure, it should be studied.”

Dr. Lewis has made 11 trips to Antarctica - most to an area not on the ice cap known as the dry valleys. Lewis says the ice cap can feel a lot like home.

Dr. Adam Lewis: “As strange as it may seem it’s not that different from being out on the prairie in North Dakota in January. Similar temperatures – it can be 30 below zero, 40 below zero. There’s almost always a stiff breeze.”

So the next time the cold wind blows, you're sharing in what life is like at the bottom of the earth. Researchers say the underground lake is like one on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, and if life is in the lake then there could be life on Europa.

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