As I do most weeknights about 6 p.m., I was listening to The Story with Dick Gordon on NPR (via our fab local affiliate, KNPR) tonight in my car. Dick’s guest, scientist John Priscu, was talking about the recent progress made by Russian researchers in their probing of a giant sub-glacial lake in Antarctica, and what American scientists will be doing soon a other lakes buried beneath the ice there. I’ve heard bits and pieces about this discovery of life existing in these multi-mile-deep lakes, but it wasn’t until hearing Priscu on today’s show hypothesizing that there are entire eco-systems under there that have thrived for millions of years without seeing the light of day that it was really put into perspective: Scientists are uncovering not only liquid water beneath an entire continent frozen over with ice for untold epochs, they’re not only theorizing that there are advanced forms of unknown life down there, but according to Priscu’s projections, they may find that at the bottom of these lakes, the water might actually be warm. Essentially?
See, way back in the 1960s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced readers of the X-Men comic book series to the Savage Land, a mysterious, tropical preserve hidden within Antarctica, filled with prehistoric creatures (and other weird beasts befitting the sci-fi aspect of these stories). At first unexplained, later comic book writers attributed the Savage Land’s existence to some alien race fiddling around down there, but I prefer the original notion of its architects: a land that time forgot.
And that’s what we’ve got here, folks: Scientists are uncovering a world hidden beneath the otherwise barren Antarctic wasteland, one preserved beneath the ice for tens of millions of years, replete with lakes and streams and, yes, life. Now, will that “life” involve anything more than resourceful bacteria living off the exhausts of the Earth’s core? No one is sure. Will we find prehistoric fish and plankton living in a pitch-black, watery world? No way to tell yet. Will there be Man-Apes and sabertooth tigers and Tubanti Fish People? Highly unlikely.
But did Jack Kirby’s imagination somehow tap into a real truth, bubbling just a few miles and about 50 years away beneath the surface of Antarctica?