According to a paper to be published in the March 21 issue of Nature, the hydrodynamics of the lake may make it possible to search for evidence of life in the layers of ice that accumulate on the lakes eastern shore. Scientists say such a possibility would provide another avenue for exploring the lakes potential as a harbor of microscopic life, in addition to actually exploring the waters of the lake itself.
The paper is authored by Robin E. Bell of Columbia Universitys Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and her colleagues. Their research, who were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), reveals that although the lake is perhaps millions of years old, its waters are relatively young. Bell's paper demonstrates that over a period of 13,300 years, all of the water was removed by the overlying ice sheet and replaced from other sources. The lake water captured by the moving ice sheet was carried as layers of ice over Lake Vostoks eastern shoreline, and then eastward away from the lake. Exploring those ice layers, they argue, is equivalent to exploring the lake itself.
Our study is a critical step in the exploration of Lake Vostok, Bell said. These frozen lake water samples will record the passage of the ice sheet and the processes across the lake. The data show that the location of the current research station on the lake may not be optimal for biological studies.
Bell added that that Lake Vostok is absolutely devoid of interference. The youngest water in it is 400,000 years old. It doesnt know anything of human beings, fossil fuels, or plasti
Contact: Peter West
National Science Foundation