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Antarctic subglacial lake may soon reveal its secrets
by Irina Gardenina
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Feb 15, 2013

File image.

Scientists from the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute have taken samples of water from Lake Vostok in Antarctic. This lake is hidden under a 3.5-km-thick layer of ice, which, as scientists believe, never melted within the last several billion years.

The Russian scientists are using drilling methods which are used by their Danish colleagues during the research in Greenland. This method does not allow microorganisms from the surface get into the water of the subglacial lake.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia, the head of the Russian expedition Valery Lukin said: "Last time, we stopped at the level of 3,505 meters, which left us only several meters to get to the water. This time, we had to start from the level of 3,431.8 meters, because the ice has thickened within this time. And, we managed to take out a 54-meter-high pillar of freshly frozen water from the lake!"

"Scientists suppose that Lake Vostok has been covered with ice for several billion years," Mr. Lukin continues. "Within all this time, the subglacial water has been isolated from any other water on Earth. Scientists suppose that living organisms, that inhabited the Earth billions of years ago but have already died out, may still live in Lake Vostok."

"The drillers will go back home by plane already in February. As for scientists, I can imagine how eager they are to examine the ice pillar, but they will have to wait for some time. We are planning to send the pillar to the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, which is in St. Petersburg. However, the ice pillar is very big, and there are no planes with a refrigerator big enough to deliver it by plane. It will be delivered to St. Petersburg on a ship, but it will be possible only in May."

"Participants of a US scientific project, which is called Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling, or WISARD for short, have told us that after 10 years of preparations, they managed to take samples of water from another subglacial lake in Antarctic, which is near the continent's western coast. However, they found no living organisms in this water - but in science, a negative result is also a result."

"It should be noted that the lake from which the US scientists took the water is covered with a layer of ice which is only 800 meters thick, while Lake Vostok lies under more than 3 kms of ice. The life conditions for organisms there may be quite different."

There are about 300 subglacial lakes and several subglacial rivers in Antarctic, and now, scientists from several countries are going to find out whether these rivers and lakes are interconnected, and, if they are, how particularly. Moreover, experts say that the equipment and experience which is used for exploring subglacial lakes in Antarctic may probably be used in space - for example, for exploring a subglacial lake which was recently discovered on Jupiter.

Source: Voice of Russia


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NSF-funded Team Samples Antarctic Lake Beneath the Ice Sheet
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 04, 2013
In a first-of-its-kind feat of science and engineering, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research team has successfully drilled through 800 meters (2,600 feet) of Antarctic ice to reach a subglacial lake and retrieve water and sediment samples that have been isolated from direct contact with the atmosphere for many thousands of years. Scientists and drillers with the interdiscipl ... read more

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