Lake Vostok -15 million Year Secret 50 Metres Away

Vicki B

voctok3

Lake Vostok has never encountered humans. Its been undisturbed for 15 million years, and is completely unknown. It’s a subglacial lake about 4,000 metres beneath the ice sheet in Antarctica. It is in Antarctica, at Vostok, which also has the world's coldest reported temperature, so it's not been easy to get at to say the least.

Although some people  think there are some real risks of contamination of this pristine environment, Russian scientists have been drilling 24 hours a day in shifts  all summer to try to reach it before the weather means they have to leave in early February .

With only days left they still have about 50 m left to drill.

No-one actually knows what is waiting for them there, so the world holds it breath. It has been isolated from the world by 4 km of ice cap. This ice may have sealed the lake and made it an ecosystem that is completely independent of anything else.

So the Russian scientists are likely to find life forms never seen before

The subglacial lake was only disvostok1covered in 1996 after satellite imagery confirmed its existence.The subglacial lake is one of the largest lakes in the world, so the excitement at Vostok is high. It is about the size of Lake Ontario.

Untouched for some 15 million years, there was an attempt to unlock the secrets of the lake in 1998, and that attempt got to within  130 metres of the lake but was halted   because of the concerns about contamination and pollution of the lake . They now say that these concerns have now been overcome.

A final evaluation of the project was approved in  November 2010 by the  Antarctic Treaty's Environmental Protection Committee and they got the green light to proceed. The idea was that they would not drill into the lake but go down until a sensor on the drill detects free water. Then they would withdraw the drill, take a sample from the lake through changes in pressue and the hole would be left to refreeze.

Interviewed by the BBC ,Dr Ekaikin said "Up until 3 km down, drilling is usually relatively easy - it has been done in Greenland and here in Antarctica. But after 3 km and as we near the bottom [of the ice sheet], the ice temperature gets very close to the ice melting point, and all sorts of problems begin."

That is why for the past few weeks, the team had been advancing at a snail's pace - about 1.6m a day.

Dr Ekaikin added that having analysed the ice cores obtained so far, the scientists have already discovered some bacteria that are likely to be living at the bottom of the lake, where the water is warmer because of the heat coming from the Earth.

The Russian scientists on this mission are hoping the technology will not fail them and they will be able to reach the waters before the season ends on 6 February-very soon. 

Check out other exciting stories on Celsias:

Delving in Antarctica

The State of Antarctica's Ice

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7 comments

If you see any unhelpful comments, please let us know immediately.

Hiram_69 (anonymous)

Mahlegeth, the Devourer of Worlds is about to be awoken

Written in February 2011

ttyp00 (anonymous)

Bring forth LAVOS

Written in February 2011

suckedinfinally (anonymous)

This is how zombie apocalypses start. Ancient bacteria just waiting for a new host...

Written in February 2011

What? (anonymous)

Seriuously, i've seeb this movie. It doesn't work out so well for the human race.

Written in February 2011

Gerry (anonymous)

Didn't they ever watch all those '50s/60s sci-fi movies like "Reptilicus" or "Godzilla"????

Written in February 2011

Steveo (anonymous)

Hope they locate my iPod.

Written in February 2011

Cognito (anonymous)

So this story is posted on January 30th, the Russkies have 50m to go, and they're progressing at 1.6m/day. But they need to leave in early February?

50.0/1.6 per day = 31 days to go. Did I miss something?

Written in February 2011

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  • Posted on Jan. 30, 2011. Listed in:

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