What Is Lake Vostok?
by Becky Oskin
Deep, dark, and mysterious, Lake Vostok is one of the deepest subglacial lakes in the world.
Buried under more than 2 miles (3.7 kilometers) of ice near Vostok research station in Antarctica, the lake filled before Antarctica froze 15 million years ago, researchers think. Covered with ice for millennia, cut off from light and contact with the atmosphere, Lake Vostok is one of the most extreme environments on Earth.
The freshwater lake may harbor a unique ecosystem of microbes and other creatures that evolved in isolation for hundreds of thousands of years. These “extremophiles" could mimic life on other moons and planets, such as Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Only meltwater from the overlying icesheet and drainage from Antarctica’s subglacial waterways have touched the lake since it froze over during the Miocene period. This constant replenishment means the water in the lake may be only as old as the ice that melts to form it, some 700,000 to 800,000 years, according to ice cores. But the true age of the lake water is unknown…
(read more: Live Science)
image by Nicole Ranger-Fuller/National Science Fdn.