Earth Science | VOL. 12, ISSUE 70, January-February 2012

Mysteries of the Ancient Waters

Lake Vostok, the largest sub-glacial lake stretched over 10,000 km2, is located beneath Russia’s Vostok station. In July 1983 temperatures here plummeted to -89oC, the coldest ever recorded temperature on earth. The overlying ice cover of the Lake has indicated paleoclimatic records 400,000 years old, and the Lake water 4000 m below is said to be isolated for 15 to 25 million years, suggesting that its environment may be home to unique ‘extremophiles’, never seen before - making Lake Vostok one of the world’s most mysterious places. In 1955-56 the First Soviet Antarctic Expedition hypothesised the existence of a subglacial lake in the region, but its presence was confirmed only in 1993 with the ERS-1 Laser Altimetry study by J.P. Ripley. Ever since, scientists and researchers from Russia and other countries, have repeatedly made attempts to explore the secret world of the Antarctic. It is surreal for liquid water to be present in this location, but scientists theorise that it is possible for water to be in its liquid state under the thick ice cover overlying the region working as an insulating blanket coupled with geothermal heat melting the bottom of the ice sheet. In 1989, French, Russian and American scientists began drilling through the ice sheet above the Lake, which was stopped just 130 m from the Lake surface to avoid contaminating it from...

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