Lake Under 2 Miles of Ice

Posted on August 10, 2007  Comments (1)

Vostok Under-ice Lake

Raiders of the Lost Lake by Alan Bellows:

In the early 1990s, a Russian drilling rig encountered something peculiar two miles beneath the coldest and most desolate place on Earth. For decades, the workers at Vostok Research Station in Antarctica had been extracting core samples from deep scientific boreholes, and analyzing the lasagna-like layers of ice to study Earth’s bygone climate. But after tunneling through 414,000 layers or so– about two miles into the icecap– the layers abruptly ended.

Unbeknownst to the Russians, their drill had mingled with the uppermost reaches of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world; a pristine pocket of liquid whose ecosystem was separated from the rest of the Earth millions of years ago. As for what sort of organisms might lurk in that exotic environment today, no one can really be certain.

Extremophile organisms have turned up in the unlikeliest of places, including within volcanic vents on the ocean floor, in the rocks deep in the Earth’s crust, and in frozen arctic soil. It is not unreasonable to suggest that cold-tolerant creatures could thrive in the waters of Lake Vostok, overcoming the oxygen saturation with extraordinary natural antioxidants. But millions of years of evolutionary isolation in an extreme environment may have created some truly bizarre organisms. This notion is supported by the ice samples drawn from the ice just above Lake Vostok, where some unusual and unidentifiable microbial fossils have been found. But the possibility that they are merely contaminates has not yet been completely ruled out.

Very interesting. Related: The Brine Lake Beneath the SeaLife Untouched by the Sun

One Response to “Lake Under 2 Miles of Ice”

  1. Jeremy Hobbs
    August 12th, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

    That’s amazing! Just wanted to say you run a great blog; the best scientific one I’ve came across. One of the only ones, except for those dedicated to global warming.

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