Buried Lake Reached: Lake Vostok Water Retrieved After 14 Million Years

By Amir Khan on January 15, 2013 8:56 AM EST

Lake Vostok station
Lake Vostok station (Photo: Creative Commons)

The buried lake reached by Russian scientists, Lake Vostok, has been sealed for the last 14 million years. But now, after over a decade of work, the buried lake has been reached and the researchers hope the buried lake water samples will give a glimpse into what life was like on prehistoric Earth.

The buried lake reached by the Russian scientists, Lake Vostok, is a giant freshwater lake in Antarctica. The water under the buried lake has been untouched for the last 14 million years, isolating it and protecting it from outside contamination. Researchers said the microbes living in the buried lake and the chemical makeup of it can shed light onto Earth's past.

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The buried lake was reached on Jan. 10, according to MSNBC, and the researchers took water samples to analyze.

"The first core of transparent lake ice, 2 meters (6.5 feet) long, was obtained on January 10 at a depth of 3,406 meters (11,100 feet)," Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute said, according to UPI. "Inside it was a vertical channel filled with white bubble-rich ice."

The buried lake reached on Jan. 10 was also reached back in October. The samples were contaminated by the drilling process.

The drilling to reach the buried Lake Vostok began in 1998, with an initial drilling of the 6,000 square mile lake, similar in size to Lake Ontario. The team reached depths of nearly 12,000 feet quickly, but stopped over concerns of contamination of the never-before-touched buried lake water. In order to avoid contamination of the buried lake, scientists drilled until they found free-flowing water, at which point they adjusted the pressure on the drill to cause the lake water to rise through the hole due to the pressure from below. From there, the water would freeze on the surface, and they could sample it without contaminating Lake Vostok.

From here, researchers will intensely analyze the buried lake water samples to see what is present in the Lake Vostok water. 

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