Lake Vostok holds many secrets, some of which need to be protected at all costs.

Andrew Terefenko

Opinions Editor

 

An invasion is underway, potentially endangering the livelihood of millions upon billions of Earthlings. Land is under siege in the name of scientific advancement, leaving its inhabitants utterly defenseless against a technology far beyond their own.

So why exactly are we now the alien invaders, treading upon ground millions of years removed from outside contact?

Those crazy Russians have reached the surface of Lake Vostok, an underground reservoir similar to Lake Ontario in size and layout, buried nearly four kilometers under the surface of eastern Antarctica. As the largest of 140 subterranean bodies of water in the continent, it is hoped that we will stumble upon organisms much like those that existed long before the ice age, eras before humans literally paved their way across the planet. Are these Terra natives ready for our all-too unsavoury welcome?

As a culture of the human race, we have a tendency to ravage, pillage and drain the life out of any bastions of nature we come across. This is a given; how else are we to get the resources needed to build larger and more numerous supermalls with four Starbucks per floor? My main concern at this point is not if this pristine submerged marine savannah will remain as such, as at this point it is only a question of when the first abuses will be cast.

The water in the lake is purportedly twice as clean as four-times distilled water. It won’t be long before wealthy, healthy hypochondriacs decide to taste such cleanliness, and that is the moment when the trend will grow. Fresh water is quite likely the most precious resource on the planet, and what can be more desirable than the absolute freshness Lake Vostok can offer?

The desire for a greater understanding of the organisms is understandable. After all, this lake may have been cut off from the rest of the planet as far back as the Paleogene period, over 23 millions years ago. To put that into perspective, that is millions of years before the first human ancestors, hominids, walked the Earth for the first time.

There is a good chance we may make tremendous strides in discovering our roots as a species, and see first-hand the kind of aquatic fauna that shared the water with our primate predecessors.

We just won’t be able to resist the allure, unfortunately, of a resource unique to that part of the world.

Imagine how much bottled prehistoric water could be sold for to people who have lived through E. Coli scares and continue to live through common tap water paranoia. There is an approximate 5,400 cubic kilometers of liquid gold in that lake, just waiting for entrepreneurial opportunists to begin the paperwork.

Not to undermine the already impressive implications that this research entails for us, but there are cosmic merits to this discovery as well. The conditions in the lake are nearly identical to those of the lakes on Jupiter’s moon Europa. If we find microscopic or even macroscopic organisms that have survived for millions of years in this ancient haven, equally significant life forms could exist on Europa, giving humanity hope for adapting for the harsh conditions of theoretical off-world settlements.

This could very well be our ticket off this planet, so there needs to be a greater call for protection of this cornucopia, so that we can fully draw upon the information that it can provide us before it becomes tainted with industrial drilling equipment and unsafe taint-prevention procedures, which are sure to come along with a mass mining effort.

Currently there are no legitimate claims to the Antarctican territories, only those verbal agreements that several countries have settled to separate their scientific efforts.

The largely ignored Antarctic Treaty of 1961 states that any area of Antarctic land should be used for peaceful purposes only. That being said, the treaty also does not recognize, dispute or establish any territorial claims to the land, giving any water-crazy country dibs on the resource should there suddenly be a need for it. The caveat being that there will be a need for it, as the human population expands and unpolluted fresh water becomes a far scarcer resource.

We are on the precipice of a time when major world powers will make a move for the deep blue treasure trove, but we have the chance now to preempt such a crisis and define legitimate laws that will protect Lake Vostok.

Being alien invaders may seem harmless for the sake of science, but how many movies have aliens as understanding and compassionate researchers?

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