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> Lake Vostok May Hold Different Kinds of Life, Antarctica


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Posted: Jul 12 2004, 05:32 AM
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Researchers have discovered that Lake Vostok, which is buried under more than two miles of ice near the center of Antarctica, is divided into two deep basins. This could mean that different forms of life might be found in the two basins
Researchers who profiled the lake with an array of complex instruments discovered the two deep basins.

Lake Vostok is a liquid – not frozen — body of water even though it's under the two-mile thick Antarctic ice sheet. This deep ice, which covers almost all of Antarctica. has the lake off from the rest of the world for thousands of years.

The two basins could have different water chemistry and other characteristics, says Michael Studinger of Lamont-Doherty, one of the scientists involved in the project.

"The ridge between the two basins will limit water exchange between the two systems. Consequently, the chemical and biological composition of these two ecosystems is likely to be different," he said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Russian Vostok research station, which was established in 1957, sites on the ice above the lake. The coldest recorded temperature on Earth, -128.6°F was measured there on July 21, 1983.

Over the years, Russian and other scientists working there first discovered Lake Vostok and around 70 other lakes under the ice, mapped them, and found microbes in ice from just above Lake Vostok.

The ice cores were drilled to learn more about past climates, but the drillers stopped about 500 feet above the lake to ensure they would not contaminate it. The ice where the microbes were found, from just above the lake, turned out to be lake water that had re-frozen, not from the ice sheet itself.

Researchers want to sample the lake to learn more about the microbes, but they first want to ensure that they don't contaminate the lake by drilling into it
Geothermal heat, seeping through the rocks below the lake, keeps it above the melting point of ice.

The new analysis is the first overall water depth map of the lake. Researchers from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the University of Tokyo reported their findings in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The team used a laser altimeter, ice-penetrating radar and gravity measurements collected by aircraft flying over the lake to produce their analysis. The water over the ridge they found is about 650 feet deep, compared to roughly 1,300 feet deep in the northern basin and 2,600 feet deep in the southern.

The U.S. National Science Foundation supported the research.

http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/...tic-lakes_x.htm
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  Posted: Jul 14 2004, 05:01 AM
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Scientists from Columbia University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have created a detailed map of Lake Vostok, which is buried 3,700 to 4,300 metres beneath the surface of Antarctic ice. They found that the lake is actually broken into two different regions; water probably doesn't flow between them. That means that scientists could find two completely different ecosystems, which have separately evolved to live in this hostile environment. By drilling down and sampling the water of Lake Vostok, scientists will learn important lessons about how to go about determining if there's life on Europa - one of Jupiter's moons which seems to have liquid oceans encased in ice.
- Scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University and user posted imageRensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York State have developed the first-ever map of water depth in Lake Vostok, which lies between 3,700 and 4,300 meters (more than 2 miles) below the continental Antarctic ice sheet. The new comprehensive measurements of the lake—roughly the size of North America's Lake Ontario—indicate it is divided into two distinct basins that may have different water chemistry and other characteristics. The findings have important implications for the diversity of microbial life in Lake Vostok and provide a strategy for how scientists study the lake’s different ecosystems should international scientific consensus approve exploration of the pristine and ancient environment.

Michael Studinger, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) at Columbia University, said that the existence of two distinct regions with the lake would have significant implications for what sorts of ecosystems scientists should expect to find in the lake and how they should go about exploring them.

"The ridge between the two basins will limit water exchange between the two systems," he said. "Consequently, the chemical and biological composition of these two ecosystems is likely to be different."

The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, supported the work. NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which coordinates almost all U.S. science on the southernmost continent.

The new measurements are significant because they provide a comprehensive picture of the entire lakebed and indicate that the bottom of the lake contains a previously unknown, northern sub-basin separated from the southern lakebed by a prominent ridge.

Using laser altimeter, ice-penetrating radar and gravity measurements collected by aircraft, Studinger and Robin Bell, of LDEO, and Anahita Tikku, formerly of the University of Tokyo and now at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, estimate that Lake Vostok contains roughly 5400 cubic kilometers (1300 cubic miles) of water. Their measurements also indicate that the top of the ridge dividing the two basins is only 200 meters (650 feet) below the bottom of the icesheet. Elsewhere, the water ranges from roughly 400 meters (1,300 feet) deep in the northern basin to 800 meters (2,600 feet) deep in its southern counterpart.

Water that passes through the lake starts on one end as melted ice from the very bottom of the ice sheet, which refreezes at the other end. According to the new measurements, the base of the ice sheet melts predominantly over the smaller northern basin, while the water in the lake refreezes over the larger southern basin. The researchers assert that water takes between 55,000 and 110,000 years to cycle through the lake.

The arrangement of the two basins, their separation and the characteristics of the meltwater may, the scientists conclude, all have implications for the circulation of water within the lake. It is possible, for example, that if the water in the lake were fresh, meltwater in the northern basin would sink to the bottom of that basin, limiting the exchange of waters between the two basins. The meltwater in the adjacent basin likely would be different.

The two lake basins, they argue, could therefore have very different bottoms.

The scientists also point out that the waters of the two basins may, as a result of the separation, have a very different chemical and even biological composition. Indeed, Lake Vostok, is also of interest to those who search for microbial life elsewhere in the solar system. The lake is thought to be a very good terrestrial analog of the conditions on Europa, a frozen moon of Jupiter. If life can exist in Vostok, scientists have argued, then microbes also might thrive on Europa.

The new measurements also indicate that different strategies may be needed to target sampling of specific types of lake sediments. Those released from the ice sheet represent the rocks over which the ice traveled, for example, and would be more prominent in the northern basin. Material in the southern basin would be more likely to represent the environmental conditions before the ice sheet sealed off the lake.

Scientists deciding whether and how to proceed with an exploration of Lake Vostok say a great deal of technological development would likely be needed before a device could be deployed to conduct contamination-free sampling. Currently, no scientific sampling of the lake is being carried out.

The ultimate goal of any sampling would be to obtain water and sediment samples from the lake bottom.

The team published the new maps in the June 19 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.





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Posted: Jul 22 2004, 11:53 PM
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Thanks for posting this.
This is a great article.

They talk about "possible life on Europa"
being validated by the finding of evolutionary uniquity,
alive in Lake Vostok.The scientists only mention microbes of course,
but if the deep lake bottom on the southern half has geothermal venting , there could be wild forests of tube worms etc.
The aspect of dual lakes,
separated by the ridge that..."

"Their measurements also indicate that the top of the ridge dividing the two basins is only 200 meters (650 feet) below the bottom of the icesheet. Elsewhere, the water ranges from roughly 400 meters (1,300 feet) deep in the northern basin to 800 meters (2,600 feet) deep in its southern counterpart."

here I disagree with the scientists as to aspects of two completely different evolutionary possibilitues in the lakes.
The ridge still leaves a 650 foot deep passage between the lakes,
'and the northern end then is just another 650 feet deeper from there.

If Anything at all is large and mobile in that 2 lake system, it is moving between both lakes.Large, could be a shrimp sized organism,
to a jellyfish type thing..
They assume that microbes are the only thing alive,
and my bets are that bigger creatures exist, and the shallow end,
complimented by the deep southern hole of 2600 feet deep,
offers a perfect ecosystem of mobile large and small creatures ,
adapted to no light .

Great stuff!
What a wild lake system!






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Posted: Jul 23 2004, 12:03 AM
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Here is the scary part...

"...a great deal of technological development would likely be needed before a device could be deployed to conduct contamination-free sampling.

The ultimate goal of any sampling would be to obtain water and sediment samples from the lake bottom."

The most intrusive possible aspect of investigation.
Right down to the bottom at 2600 feet deep,
after going thru,
3700 meters of ice to get there
to collect water and sediment samples,
while trying to ,
" conduct contamination-free sampling",
and not have the probe break down ,
and contaminate the lake.
How do you send a bacteria free probe down there?
Contamination of the uniqueness of the environment is inevitable.

This is called a "pristine environment"
at Lake Vostok.
Maybe they should leave it alone.

But then....
The old sci-fi nightmare,
The probe came back,
Contaminated.
What was that movie?
The Thing? was it by Carpenter?
At the south pole .

.


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Posted: Jan 1 2007, 01:05 PM
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Russia researchers finishing drilling well to Antarctic lake
29.12.2006
QUOTE
ST. PETERSBURG, December 29 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Antarctic researchers have reopened a deep well in the ice mass overlying the relict lake Vostok (“East”).

The press secretary of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, Sergei Balyasnikov, told Itar-Tass on Friday that a first core in this season had been recovered from a 3,650-metre depth using a unique thermal drill designed at the St. Petersburg Technical University.

The drillers plan raising to the surface 75 ice cores during the 2006-07 expedition.

This sample of cores would be a kind of a chronicle of the earth, Balyasnikov said.

Some150 meters are left to drill to the surface of Vostok, a body of the fresh water that “has not known the atmospheric air since the moment of its formation”.

In order to avoid polluting the water mirror, the well is treated with a special chemical substance after each drilling, and a sterile technology is being developed for water sampling, Balyasnikov said.

“Water sampling from the subglacial reservoirs is planned within the framework of program work of the International Polar Year in 2008, he added.

Scientists expect that the fresh water lake that had been uncovered under a four kilometre-thick ice by Russian polar researchers will allow reconstructing the climate of the Earth for millions of years.

The Antarctic lake Vostok is larger that the Onezhskoye lake.

Its configuration resembles Baikal.

The lake sized 300 by 80 kilometres has a 1,000-metre depth.

Some scientists relate the origin of Vostok to “circulation of heat flows from the earth that run on geological faults”.

http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?N...27135&PageNum=0




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