Category Archives: Lake Vostak

Nothing To See At Project Ice Monster

You’re probably wondering what happened with the Harmless Ice Monster Project I told you about a little while back.  Well, good news – nothing.

If you recall, they were about 20 meters from drilling into a lake sealed away under two miles of Antarctic ice for the last fifteen million years, and they only had a week to cover that distance because the winter was coming and also there was some political wrangling – a bunch of busybodies thought maybe they ought to leave the pristine environment alone.

Yes, they were hard at work building a monster movie the last time we checked in on them, so let’s see how they’re doing now. 

Here’s the most recent update, conveniently titled Updated: No breakthrough to Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, in which we learn that:

“drilling stopped from 26 to 30 January, while scientists measured the densities of drilling fluids, widened the hole’s diameter in upper layers, removed slime, added Freon where needed, and prepared to upgrade their electrico-mechanical drill pump.”

So right off the bat, you and I are probably thinking the same three things:

  1. Why do they need freon two miles under the ice with the Antarctic winter looming near?  Isn’t freon a refrigerant?  I’m not sure I’d be heading in that direction.
  2. That is a decidedly awkward name for whatever kind of equipment you are upgrading to.  That sounds like someone explaining something to Sherlock Holmes a hundred and ten years ago.   And don’t you think a few days before the project’s over is a weird time to upgrade?
  3. Did you guys just say you were cleaning up a bunch of slime?

Yes, they sure did say that, and they said it with a completely straight face, like it’s a normal thing.  All three of those things range from vaguely creepy to sinister, just kind of dropped in there.  As in, “Yeah, I got up this morning, brushed my teeth, showered, ate a live cat, and then grabbed the paper and hopped on the bus.”

Dudes, I don’t normally think of slime when I think of Antarctica.  If you’re in South America or maybe Columbus, Ohio, sure, rivers of slime all over the place.  Horrifying and nasty and depressing but what are you going to do?  But I thought everything was frozen down there, and if slime is frozen then it isn’t slime anymore.

What the hell.  Kindly explain the slime, while you’re sitting there at the keyboard knocking out your report.  That’s a really glaring omission, especially for a crew that’s been in denial about ice monsters this whole time.

In fact, it sort of makes one wonder if they really came short of drilling into Lake Vostok.  According to my rather startling and peer-reviewed calculations, there is a nine hundred percent chance that prehistoric shapeshifting dinosaur people have eaten the Russian scientists who drilled into the lake, and then replaced them and started typing out reports.

Most likely they drink freon because they’re so weird and they were upgrading to their own amphibian Morlock technology.  Remember, there’s a good chance they could look like this if they wanted to, since they’re shapeshifters:

No, listen to me, I’m serious.  The Thing was about shapeshifters, or more like a sort of pile of shapeshifting goo, which was already a puppy dog at the beginning, sorry to spoil that if you haven’t seen it.  And so what I’m saying is, there’s a precedent. 

The Shapeshifting Underwater Dinosaur Goo Men then replace the drilling crew, but they have to eat them first or something.  Then they can speak Russian because that’s somehow the way it works with them, they absorb your language.  I mean it doesn’t have to make sense, we all saw them do it, you can shake your fist at the sky all you want.

So then they go to file their report, and although they can speak Russian, they are culturally a little ignorant, and so they don’t realize that it’s not normal to remove slime from things in Antarctica.  They don’t realize that even if there were slime, you’d want to elaborate.  That slime is almost never a casual type of thing.

It’s a pretty strong word, in fact.  If they meant “algae” they’d have said “algae.”  They must have meant slime.  Slime means monsters.  And they must be shapeshifting monsters since nobody seems to realize it but me.

Duh.  It’s just logic, you guys – it’s not that hard.

And anyway if you want a far more mundane version of the story, here’s Antarctic Treaty no match for national pride.  Which on a side note, let me say that I have no idea why these guys don’t capitalize their titles.  I capitalize the hell out of my titles, even the little words, it’s like I’m yelling at you.  You’re lucky I don’t use all caps. 

Two spaces after my periods, too, every single time – screw you, typographers!

So like I’m saying, that article is by Andrew Darby, and he’s going to go on and on about how this all goes back to the collapse of the Soviet Union and The Antarctic Treaty and a beleaguered Russian Antarctic program, and generally all the stuff from an old monster movie in the first half hour, where all they do is talk. 

He’ll tell you all about history and politics and treaties and the understandably complicated logistics involved in getting someone to stop doing something in the middle of Antarctica, if they really want to go do it.  I mean even the simple stuff is extremely difficult down there – just imagine trying to assemble a grill or learn to tap dance, in the middle of Antarctica.  Then imagine someone else is doing something like that, and you want him to cut it out.

But anyway, what Darby won’t tell you is anything about ice monsters or slime.  So I think it’s pretty obvious that the Morlock Eskimo CHUD Monsters got to him.  Then they released a bunch of calm, easygoing stories in the press about how well, we couldn’t quite make it.  Nothing going on at Lake Vostok, just the normal hanging out, cleaning slime off of things.  You know how it is.

By now, they’re probably all over the place.  If they hadn’t already been eaten, you’d just want to grab these Russian scientists and shake them and use your best Stupid Voice to mock their ideas.  “Oh, yes, let’s drill into the Horror Movie Lake.  It’ll prove Russia’s great and we’ll get invited to parties.”

But hold on before you get out your flamethrower and go off all half-cocked, because almost every modern court in the world requires that you prove somebody is a shapeshifter before you baptize him or her in holy, cleansing fire.  You don’t want to learn that one the hard way, no sir.

For now, we play a waiting game.


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Welcome To The Harmless Ice Monster Project

You don’t have to worry, because it’s not like a monster movie at all.  As you can see by this BBC article Lake Vostok Drilling in Antarctic ‘Running Out of Time’, all that the ragtag group of scientists are doing is drilling into a mysterious lake which has been locked away under the Antarctic ice, completely unchanged for fifteen million years.

And if a monster movie were going on, then how likely would it be that the movie would start one week before the deadly Antarctic winter cuts the entire site off from civilization for months? 

It’s called Lake Vostok and it is a little over two miles beneath the ice.  I guess the way it works is that the ice is so thick it traps geothermal heat beneath it, creating a vast igloo full of water and dinosaurs.  What do you say we go on down there and start poking stuff into it?

No need.  The Russians are already on it.   

Actually, they came pretty close to drilling all the way in, around twelve years ago.  Then they had to stop because they uncovered strange microorganisms in the core samples – again, there is nothing Monster Movie about that, so quit smirking – and they became concerned about contaminating the pristine environment.  Sounds backward to me, but yes, you heard them.  They’re worried about hurting the monsters. 

See, microorganisms could mean an ecosystem – more complex organisms, all kinds of stuff.  For example:

I didn’t mean to scare you there, but it didn’t seem to me like you were taking me seriously enough.  We can stick our heads in the snow like ostriches who are really lost, or we can look right in the face at what our fellow human beings are screwing around with.

Look at him, damn it!  Do you think this is a game?

All right, I’m sorry.  Come back.  That’s probably not going to be what the ice monster looks like anyway, because he’s probably going to be more like a dinosaur.  But it would be pretty arrogant to assume that magnificent creature up there can’t swim.  When you assume something like that on an ice monster mission, you make an ass out of U and Me.

That’s definitely how the Russian scientists see it.  Here you can see them engaged in a time-honored, zero-tolerance, highly disciplined Ice Monster Preparation Protocol:

So, clearly the Ice Monster Project is in the right hands.  These guys are so serious and focused and single-minded in purpose, that I’ve been sitting and staring at this photo of them before I go to sleep.  It makes me feel serene.  Yes, there is evil and ice monsterality in the world – but there’s an elite force out there to do battle with it. 

Anyway, eventually they figured out a monster-friendly method for drilling into Lake Vostak without contaminating it.  It’s basically a gargantuan condom they put over the drill.

No, it isn’t – can you imagine?  Heh.  Actually they spend a stylistically questionable length of time in the article describing how they really do it.  It seems especially questionable when I can sum in up by telling you they pretty much take a shop vac down there with them.

So, it looks like it took around six or seven years to hammer out the Super Sucky Drill Protocol in all it’s glorious detail, and now they’re at it again. 

Apparently, even the ice is mysterious at that depth.  They’re currently drilling at a rate of just 1.6 meters a day into “pure frozen lake water, composed of huge round monocrystals of a metre or more in diameter and as hard as glass.”  Usually when you’re drilling into something super weird, there’s just normal stuff behind it, right?

Naturally, there are still squawkers wearing lab coats and talking with their noses plugged, who reason that since we’ve basically crapped every place on the planet that wasn’t locked under two miles of ice, maybe it’s not so responsible to go drilling a new toilet into the joint. 

The Russians scientists on the other hand are pretty sure everything’s fine, and they don’t think we should worry about it.  “It’s our freaking monster lake,” they were most certainly not quoted as saying. “How about we worry about our drilling projects, and you worry about yours?”

So anyway, now they’ve got a week left and just about a week’s worth of drilling to do before the seasons change and they have to airlift out of there.  Apparently, we have a whole crew of scientists out there who have never seen The Thing, Thirty Days of Night, Reign of Fire, Alien Vs. Predator, Leviathan, Sharktopus, or Godzilla, so they’re not worried about getting eaten one-by-one and then filling the drill shaft with natural gas from a pocket they found earlier in the movie and then blasting out of the shaft on a snowmobile just as a cloud of fire erupts behind them and then barely making it to the helicopter as the flaming ice monster jumps out again and goes ROOOAAARRRRR, and then having to shoot it with a really remarkably powerful flare gun and tell it, “Ice to see you again!”

It’s like there’s no talking to them in that regard.  When I Skyped the brilliant, smoking hot scientist girl in charge of Environmental Concerns, she said that if anything went wrong, they would all put on SCUBA gear and split up, and a couple of them would probably just find a place to make out, and that there was a single kind-hearted African American male on staff they could send down to restart the generator, if it kicked off mysteriously and there was a thumping noise.

“He’ll be fine,” she assured me.

So, I guess they’re all squared away out there.  It’s nothing for us to worry about – not even Katia Moskvitch, the writer of the article, is worried about it.  It’s very exciting, she tells us, because “sampling the waters could also move us a step closer to the understanding of similar glacial conditions at one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa.”

Yes, that’s excellent.  Make sure you don’t worry about ice monsters when you’re screwing around on Europa, either. 

You know, another bunch of knuckleheads is planning to clone a mammoth, right?  So it’s going to get pretty monstertastic up in here this century anyway.

Might as well get on board.  These are scientists.  They know what they’re doing.


And an update posted later:  Nothing To See At Project Ice Monster


Posted by on January 29, 2011 in Lake Vostak, News/Commentary


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