Russia’s Natural Resource Minister Yury Trutnev on Friday handed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin a water sample from the pristine icebound Lake Vostok that had been hidden in the Antarctic for millions of years.
The St. Petersburg Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute on Wednesday officially confirmed startling reports that Russian explorers had drilled down to the untouched Antarctic sub-glacial lake. Hours before the historical breakthrough, Trutnev arrived at Russia’s Vostok station located on the ice sheet above the ancient lake.
Trutnev arrived at a meeting with Putin holding a metal case in his hands. The minister drew out a flask with a yellowish liquid sealed with a metal lid. The lettering on the cover says: “Lake Vostok, more than million years old, depth 3,769.3 meters, 5.12.11, Antarctic.”
This is the first sample from the lake’s ancient waters and it has yet not been tested. Experts claim that the lake may be between one and thirty million years old.
Putin asked Trutnev whether he had tasted the water. “No,” the minister said. “That would have been interesting – dinosaurs and Turnev both drank it,” Putin joked.
Trutnev gave details of the ice drilling expedition, which involved 33 explorers, who pierced through almost four kilometers of ice in extreme conditions.
Initially, The Russian expedition had been working with a drill that uses kerosene as antifreeze. After several scientists and environmental groups claimed that the pristine lake might be polluted by those chemicals, the team switched to more environmentally friendly Freon.
The bore only slightly touched the lake's surface. At that moment, sensors detected a sharp increase in pressure. Water started rushing up from the lake; it covered the chemicals and quickly froze, sealing out the toxic chemicals, researchers said.
Putin promised to award those who took part in the Antarctic expedition and asked Truntnev to come up with proposals on how to do it.
Scientists hope Lake Vostok, which is the largest of Antarctica's buried network of icebound lakes and also one of the largest lakes in the world, could reveal new forms of life and show how life evolved before the ice age.
The discovery of the hidden lakes of Antarctica in the 1990s sparked much enthusiasm among scientists all over the world. Some think the ice cap above and at the edges have created a hydrostatic seal with the surface that has prevented lake water from escaping or anything else from getting inside.