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    RUSSIANS' UNIQUE DRILLING OPERATION IN ANTARCTIC

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    ST.PETERSBURG, May 13 (RIA Novosti) - During the 50th season of the Russian Antarctic Expedition (2004-2005), the glacier will be drilled through to the lake Vostok underneath, chief of the expedition Valeri Lukin told journalists on Thursday.

    Well drilling will take three seasons, 50 meters of ice to be passed during each of the first two. The lake waters will be reached in 2006 or 2007.

    Deep drilling of the well near the Russian station Vostok, found above the lake's southern part, was suspended when only 130 meters of ice remained to go before striking the relic waters. "The international community asked not to hit the waters until a special technology appeared, which would minimise possible pollution of the relic waters", Lukin said.

    The Mining Institute in St.Petersburg developed the technology two years ago. Only in 2003, at the 26th consultative conference on the Antarctic Treaty, did the international community agree to the Russian proposals.

    "It was like the competition to be the first on the Moon. We have abided by the rules of the game within the international Antarctic Treaty", Lukin stressed.

    In order to penetrate into the lake's waters special equipment will have to be manufactured. For that the capabilities of the Russian military-industrial complex will have to be put to use, he said.

    Study of the lake Vostok, named after the Russian Antarctic station, began in 1995. Since then, Russian specialists of the Polar maritime geological survey and Antarctic expeditions have gained information on the size and form of the lake, thickness of its ice cover, underwater relief and sedimentation.

    The deep drilling began in the 1970s, when nothing was yet known about the lake, to gain paleoclimatic information. The already drilled well is 3,623 meters deep.

    Samples from the lake will provide unique information for researchers: for about a million years its relic waters have been out of contact with the atmosphere.

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