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20 Million Years Old Antarctic Lake Drilled

 
 
 
 
 
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It took researches 30 years of drilling through a four-kilometer-thick ice to reach the renowned subglacial lake. Most importantly, million years-old secrets will be unveiled without causing harm to the lake’s ecosystem.

­“Yesterday [on Sunday] our scientists at the Vostok polar station in the Antarctic completed drilling at depths of 3,768 meters and reached surface of the subglacial lake,” RIA Novosti quoted unnamed Russian scientist.

Lake Vostok is a unique aquatic ecosystem hidden under some four kilometers of ice. Its water has been isolated from the atmosphere – and therefore from the outer biosphere – for millions of years. Scientists believe that surveys of the lake can provide invaluable details on past and future climate changes.

It is not yet known whether the lake’s waters are inhabited – certain bacteria and, perhaps, more complex creatures, could potentially live – but scientists have everything now to find this out. The importance of such potential discovery is difficult to overestimate.

Drilling works around Vostok Station in the Antarctic began in the 1970s, at a time when scientists still had no idea that a lake lay under the four-kilometer-thick ice shield. It was only in 1996 that Russian specialists, supported by their British counterparts, discovered what later proved to be one of the world’s largest freshwater reservoirs.

However, in 1998 drilling was halted only 130 meters from the lake’s surface when the international community voiced concerns that its ancient waters risked being polluted if special precautions and technologies were not employed.

The relevant technology was developed in 2003 in St. Petersburg, and the international working group conceded that it was now safe to continue drilling.

Work resumed in 2005.

Panoramic photo of Vostok Station showing the layout of the camp. Credit: Todd Sowers LDEO, Columbia University, Palisades, New York.

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