Antarctica might be emerging as a popular alternative vacation option, but it's not likely many would want to live there months on end like the hardy Russian researchers hunkered down at Vostok Station.

Besides, whatever those academic folks are examining—and it could be phenomena ranging from bleeding waterfall formations to ice cube-shaped glaciers—hasn't been a topic that regularly makes front-page news.

But once in a while, something huge takes place down there that makes most of us take notice. It might entice more adventurous people to dig out their winter woollies and parkas and find a way down to Antarctica to see it for themselves. It could also make others shudder in revulsion over any paranoid perceptions highlighted by such fare as The X-Files: Fight the Future and John Carpenter's remake of The Thing.


A Cold War With The Weather

Russian researchers have been gathering data about Antarctica since 1957 when the Soviets decided to establish a scientific outpost that far south on the planet. Curiously, they dubbed the station Vostok, meaning "east" in English.

The moniker's geographic oversight aside, they've made a few headline-grabbing discoveries, including one account concerning air temperature. Back in 1983, Vostok happened to inhabit the coldest place on earth ever in recorded history. However, chances are that record low may never be broken, as the region is slightly warmer these days.

Besides temperature, the crew also conducts a lot of drilling and studying core samples taken from those activities. A lot of what they call geomagnetic research also takes place at the station, located close to the southern magnetic pole. But it's been in the geothermal discipline where the plot starts to heat up.

What About That Nuclear Cargo Ship In The Area?

Depending on when folks are needs, Vostok personnel ranges between a dozen and two dozen or so daring and intelligent bodies to run the station and experiments within the complex. That means supply runs aren't all that huge.

RELATED: 10 Most Fascinating Things About A Possible Trip To Antarctica

But in February, The Moscow Times reported that the Russian-owned Sevmorput, the world's only non-military nuclear-powered ship left St. Peterburg for Antarctica with a much more massive payload than expected. Russian officials declared that the cargo consisted of construction materials for the outpost. Like the ice that gradually covers a winter lake, the plot was thickening.

Then There's That Mysterious Underground Lake

The greatest likelihood is that those construction supplies in that shipment were to expand research over a discovery Vostok scientists stumbled onto more than 20 years ago. Extensive thermal testing led to findings that the station was perched on top of ice that covered a sub-glacial lake two miles underneath.

They've also determined that the body of water was roughly the same size as Lake Ontario and that its liquid temperature ranged between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating a heat source was responsible for its warmth, relative to the otherwise frigid surroundings.

Astonishingly, additional drilling since 2015 revealed that this lake was teeming with an abundance of unusual aquatic life previously undisturbed. It seemed that Antarctica was about to yield one of many of its secrets which would have otherwise remained frozen in obscurity.

Implications Could Be Out Of This World

Thousands of life forms have since been discovered in that subterranean freshwater lake, most of them unlike anything seen elsewhere on earth. The majority consists of microbes, although several species of crustaceans, tardigrades (sometimes called "water bears"), and even fish were also found swimming about.

Estimated to be at least 13 million years old, the now-christened Lake Vostok has scientists wondering how that life managed to exist in isolation from other creatures on the planet. And it's also leading other scholars to speculate that similar conditions could create a case for similar lakes existing on other planets, such as beneath the arid polar caps of Mars.

For now, though, the priority is to continue research to unlock more mysteries about Lake Vostok. Considering Antarctica has been responsible for some of the most eyebrow-raising geographic images taken of late, there's a good chance that what else surfaces from that mysterious body of water will be just as stunning.

NEXT: Airbnb Is Looking For Volunteers To Travel To Antarctica & Anyone Can Apply