‘In the early 1990s, a Russian drilling rig encountered something peculiar two miles beneath the coldest and most desolate place on Earth. For decades, the workers at Vostok Research Station in Antarctica had been extracting core samples from deep scientific boreholes, and analyzing the lasagna-like layers of ice to study Earth’s bygone climate. But after tunneling through 414,000 layers or so– about two miles into the icecap– the layers abruptly ended. The ice below that depth was relatively clear and featureless, a deviation the scientists were at a loss to explain. In search of answers, the men drilled on.
Unbeknownst to the Russians, their drill had mingled with the uppermost reaches of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world; a pristine pocket of liquid whose ecosystem was separated from the rest of the Earth millions of years ago. As for what sort of organisms might lurk in that exotic environment today, no one can really be certain.’