Tuesday, November 27th 2012, 5:03 PM EST
It has spent the best part of three millennia locked under a 20m block of ice and is six times saltier than sea.
And at 13°C below zero, Lake Vida in East Antarctica is one of the coldest aquatic environments on the planet.
Yet despite posing some of the most hostile conditions on Earth, the lake is teeming with life.
Scientists drilling into the lake have found abundant and diverse bacteria - potentially giving insight into how life might exist on other planets, the journal Nature reports.
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