13 January 2013, 15:35

Russian scientists get first ice samples from Antarctic Lake Vostok

Russian scientists get first ice samples from Antarctic Lake Vostok

Russian scientists have obtained first ice samples from Lake Vostok, a huge body of liquid water buried under the Antarctic ice. The scientists presume that the ice from the lake may have special physical characteristics.

Lake Vostok is considered to be the largest of several hundreds of reservoirs located under the Antarctic ice. With an area of 15,000 square km it is slightly smaller that Ladoga Lake in Russia, which is considered to be the largest in Europe.

For millions of years Lake Vostok was isolated from earth atmosphere. The thickness of the ice layer above the lake varies between 3,700 up and 4,200 meters. On January 10, the members of the Antarctic expedition received first ice samples from that lake. The samples will be brought to St. Petersburg in mid-May when the research ship “Academician Fyodorov” is back from the expedition. We hear from Valery Lukin, the head of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) in charge of the mission.

"Thеn (in May) these samples will be taken to our laboratories for micro-biological and chemical analysis. We are going to study the biodiversity of an absolutely unknown object. So far no one else in the world has managed to take sample from that lake. If we find some microorganisms in those samples we will probably get new data about evolution laws because such organisms lived in such a unique environment."

The study of water from the lake will help researchers answer an important question about life forms which existed on our planet millions of years ago. So far there are no direct proves of life forms in the lake but many scientists believe that they exist there, Tamara Hoger, deputy head of the limnology institute of the Siberian department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says.

"Lake Vostok was isolated from the outer world for more than a million years. It is possible to speak about the reconstruction of paleo-climate by analyzing samples of water. Perhaps we will discover the most primitive life forms."

Antarctica is still full of secrets and now Russian scientists have come closer to discovering the secrets of the largest Antarctic lake.

Oleg Nekhai, Alexei Lyakhov
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