Lake Vostok drilling complete: Earth’s oldest super-clean water system reached

Feb 6, 2012

On the first of this month it was reported that scientists were about to complete a 30 year drilling expedition to hit a 20-million-year-old lake: this week they've reached the surface. This body of water called Vostok is Antarctica's largest subglacial lake and is believed by scientists to be "the only giant super-clean water system on the planet." This body of water could contain life and give us Earth-shattering information on our past, excuse the pun, or it could contain an environment unlike anything we've experienced before. If either result turns out to be true, we'll gain insight on "alien" lakes like those we've found already on Jupiter's moon Europa. Thirty years of drilling and the research portion of the expedition can begin!

This program started in the 1970's where it currently still resides at Voxtok Station, it being a simple drilling mission until 1996 when these Russian specialists along with their British counterparts discovered the lake. With sonar and satellite imaging, it was discovered that this lake was directly under the drill site and that it could be one of the world's largest freshwater reservoirs. This lake is right around the size of Lake Ontario and is under 3623 meters of ice. RIA Novosti (the Russian news network) reported the following:

"Yesterday our scientists at the Vostok polar station in the Antarctic completed drilling at depths of 3,768 meters and reached the surface of the subglacial lake." - RIA Novosti

Drilling started in the 1970's and continued until 1998, just two years after it was discovered that the lake lie below. In 1998 it was feared that the lake would be contaminated by the process being used to drill. In 2003 a bit of technology that allowed the drilling continue was developed in St. Petersburg, and after testing the tech out, the drilling began again in 2005. It is the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute that predicts that the water will be:

"the only giant super-clean water system on the planet. …twice cleaner than double-distilled water." - RAARI

Now the testing can commence and tiny samples of the water in the lake can be shown to contain all manner of wonderful things. There's also the possibility that the lake contains absolutely nothing of interest: but we're betting on the former option. What do you think they'll find over 3500 meters under the ice and snow and who knows what else?

[via RT, Images via The Earth Institute Columbia University]

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