Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weird Wednesday - Lake Vostok

Let's take a journey to the frigid wasteland of Antarctica.  Like the cold?  Imagine -132°F!  The coldest temperature ever recorded on our humble little planet also happens to be right above one of the true last frontiers on Earth:

Lake Vostok, a freshwater underground body of water the size of Lake Ontario, lies beneath 4 kilometers of ice. What's the big deal? I go ice fishing all the time, you might say.  Well it could be "one of the biological finds of the millennium."

The ancient body of water is considered a "fossil lake" and the water has been undisturbed for 10 to 25 million years.  It is like a doorway into the dim, distant past, and nobody really knows what might be down there.

Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory think conditions in Lake Vostok could be similar to a hypothesized underground water ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa.  And if you've ever read Arthur C. Clarke, you know what could happen to Europa.

The mysterious lake is the center of controversy, with debate over whether humans should risk contaminating such a pristine environment in order to study it.  There's also the possibility that whatever lives in the lake (if anything) could be dangerous, because the modern world might not have any immunity to organisms that are millions of years old.

Whether the lake contains Godzilla eggs or is connected to a certain Loch in Scotland or is just a big, dark, empty ice puddle, it is definitely something you should keep your eye on.  Who knows what might happen if and when we probe its icy depths.

If your pockets are nearly as deep as the ancient lake, check out the book The Antarctic Subglacial Lake Vostok: Glaciology, Biology and Planetology by Igor A. Zotikov.

I have to admit, I haven't been willing to spring for the 128 bucks.  If you do, let me know how it is!

Should we leave Lake Vostok alone?  Or dare we take the risk and explore it?  What do you think?


  1. I don't know about exploration...sounds pretty cold. :) That book looks like an interesting read though!

  2. I'm really curious about it. But we'd probably wreck it, so should probably leave it alone. Unless we find a way to study it without disturbing it.

  3. Thanks for the comments! It is quite a conundrum....