Time capsule: what secrets are hiding a relict lake Vostok

CC BY 2.0 / Christopher Michel / MeltingАнтарктида Antarctica is covered with thick ice armor,Time capsule: what secrets are hiding a relict lake VostokCC BY 2.0 / Christopher Michel / Antarctica Melting

One of the largest lakes in Antarctica. But to see it not: it sealed a top-four kilometers of ice. This is lake Vostok, an open Soviet and Russian scientists. Studying the ice-free fresh water reservoir, insulated from the surface of life millions of years ago, scientists hope to learn how life began on Earth and other planets.

Exactly 60 years ago, from 1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958, hosted the international polar year, bringing together thousands of scientists from around the world. Then the Soviet explorers were founded in the very cold and remote region of Antarctica research station «Vostok». It is located near the South magnetic pole of the Earth at an altitude of 3.4 km from sea level. Through this station our geophysicists made seismic profiles in order to know what is under the ice. Among them was Andrei Kapitsa — brother of the famous presenter of the program «Obvious — improbable» Sergey Kapitsa. Based on these data, he suggested that in the station area under the glacier is a layer of water.

Drilling resumed in summer 2006 and in 2007. Double-ended drilling Assembly, and when he failed to get, well I had to start sloping from the cliff to get around the problem area. The surface of the lake reached 5 February 2012 at a depth of 3714,24 meters.

The second time the reservoir was opened on 15 January 2015. Raised from the lake samples are carefully examined, including the presence of living organisms. The interest of scientists is clear. «The main goal of penetration into the lake — the search for unusual forms of microbial life that can dwell in extreme conditions at pressures up to 400 bar — temperature close to the freezing point, without light, without water-dissolved organic carbon, when strongly diluted the ions, basic substances, long-term isolation from surface biota for at least 14 million years and probably in excess of dissolved oxygen,» writes in the article, the study leader Sergey Bulat, head of the laboratory of cryostability Petersburg Institute of nuclear physics. B. P. Konstantinov.

© RIA Novosti / Alexei Nikolskiye in fotobanka sample of prehistoric water from subglacial lake Vostok in AntarcticaTime capsule: what secrets are hiding a relict lake Vostok© RIA Novosti / Alexei Nikolskiye in fotobanka sample of prehistoric water from subglacial lake Vostok in Antarctica

After cleaning the samples they identified 49 different DNA Filatov of bacteria, most of which, as it turned out, were superficial, and only two interested scientists. One type of DNA is similar to water, the bacterium Janthinobacterium sp. the other belongs to an unknown species and has similarity to known microorganisms less than 86%.

Is there life on Mars

Any conclusions from these findings, biologists are not yet doing. In fact, it’s unclear, even, whether inhabited the lake. A real breakthrough will happen when you get water samples near the bottom, where it is warmer and rich in mineral nutrients. It is also desirable to take samples of sediments, where, presumably, hot springs. Of their existence, scientists told the lake ice frozen at the bottom of the glacier. In it is found the crystals of minerals that form in hidrotermic. But such a breakthrough will not happen before it invented the technology of «clean drilling», which allows to get no contaminated water. That’s why at the station «Vostok» every year the participants of the Russian Antarctic expedition that in real conditions to try to solve this complex task.


Scientists believe that lake Vostok existed prior to the glaciation of the continent, and thus it can be the descendants of ancient organisms that lived there prior to coating. The object is interesting from the point of view of cosmology, as it is a model of the reservoir on other planets and satellites of the planets, where the ice could support life.

How many secrets hides the lake East, only time will tell, but it is already clear what a great scientific and social significance for the world has this unique object, which we broke through the kilometers of ice, and how important it is to keep it clean.