Some Thing is Found in Lake Vostok

By Tom Yulsman | March 8, 2013 1:42 am

The Thing.

Results are preliminary, but Russian scientists say they have recovered an “unclassified” form of life from water samples brought up from ancient Lake Vostok, more than 2 miles beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet.

No, it’s not akin to “The Thing” in John Carpenter’s awesome 1982 movie (depicted in the screenshot above from a clip of the movie). Genetic analysis reveals that it is a species of bacteria that’s never been seen before.

The Russian site, RIA Novosti, reported the news yesterday. Quoted in the story, Sergei Bulat, a researcher at the Laboratory of Eukaryote Genetics at the St. Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute, had this to say:

After excluding all known contaminants…we discovered bacterial DNA that does not match any known species listed in global databanks. We call it unidentified and ‘unclassified’ life.”

In his blog at Scientific American, Caleb Scharf, director of Columbia University’s multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center, struck a cautious note about the discovery:

Obviously we’ll need to wait to see the details. Phrases like ‘bacterial DNA’ are pretty vague – are they looking at things like the ubiquitous 16s rRNA, or some other sequence selections typically used for metagenomic analysis? Do they have cells under a microscope?

It looks to be exciting news though. Decades of hard work to reach one of the most alien places on Earth may actually be revealing lifeforms we have not knowingly encountered before. It doesn’t really get better than this!

I just hope they have that stuff contained well. (Oh, and by the way, if you want to watch the clip from The Thing, go here.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, select, Top Posts
  • Matt Hickman

    As a true geek, it behooves me to note that the reference should not be to John Carpenter’s 1982 movie, but to John Campbell’s 1938 novella, “Who Goes There?” — which is the original story that the movie was adapted from.

    • Tom Yulsman

      Now I’ll have to read the novella. I wasn’t aware of it until you mentioned it. But I cited “The Thing” because that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw this news — the monster in Carpenter’s movie.

    • Jonathan Buttall

      I’ve read the story and own the movie and don’t see what point you were trying to make.

    • u sure dog

      How does it behoove you to say that? Am I missing something?

      • frankgsimonphandd

        No your not! Thats a post of a sci-fi text nerd!

    • Jerry Lambert

      I would have personally referenced the X-Files episode “ice” it is closer to this story.

  • Wayne

    Funny, while following this over the years the first analogy I had was the X Files episode “Ice” (first season, episode 8) where scientists brought up a “contagion” while drilling in the ice in Alaska that drove the scientists mad.

    Apparently Chris Carter also uses the novella “Who Goes There?” as inspiration for the storyline.

    • Tom Yulsman

      When I posted this to Facebook, a number of people mentioned X Files. I never saw that episode. I’m thinking now that I should!

  • joelhunn

    Mr Hickman, You get points for thoroughness, but to be an accurate geek, you should notice that his reference is to THE MOVIE and not the story upon which the movie was based.

    • Jeff Almanza

      To be an accurate non-geek, you both should notice that you’re f***king geeks.

  • Ganjamancer

    ‘Day of the Triffids’ would have been appropriate too.

    • Guest

      But that movie wasn’t that good.

  • Rod Pardorla

    H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.

  • Mike Messier

    What about Christian Nyby’s 1951 “The Thing” also based on John Campbell’s 1938 novella? Am I the only one who remembers this classic?

    • Ryan Nicholas

      Why are we focusing on the reference, instead of the subject of the article?

      • Aristarco Palacios

        Because it’s funny?


    The Russians? Yeah no problem there, they’ll use the utmost caution, safety and strict procedures to spread…errr…fly the sample back to Moscow via reliable Tupolev transport..

  • Studying_Nomad


  • spookysr

    Am I missing something here? Didn’t the US NSF already do deep drilling into Vosthok and found a new type of bacteria DECADES ago? Also wasn’t there an anomalous magnetic artifact found? I had read somewhere about scientist speculating about some sort of other artifacts possibly in the deep Lake which was difficult to explain. I thought there was some scuttlebutt about all of those Antarctic American doctors trying to get out of Dodge, as they say, for bogus reasons due to the new finds and possible contagions. Even one NSF employee supposedly went cuckoo and had to be airlifted to New Zealand (off season too) just like the anxious doctors. He was babbling something about alien unidentified flying objects or some such foolishness. I forgot where I read this…

  • myname

    Start of an X-files episode for sure.

  • Madison Native

    This makes me even more hopeful we’ll find life forms elsewhere in our solar system and beyond. There’s only one truth – there’s either life elsewhere other than Earth or there isn’t.

  • Steve Henderson

    i like the original movie best though

  • Jim Carroll

    oh great the next plague upon the earth 😀

  • Stephen Green

    Carpenters ‘the thing’ an awesome film, though a Hollywood thing does explore things better than science does..



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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