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Vostok lake

Vostok lake localized beneath the scientific Russian base in East Antartica is the largest identified lake. As comparison, the surface (of about 240 x 60 km covers an area of about 12.000 km2 and 670 m of depth) is 14 times the extension of Garda’s lake. Vostok’s lake represents a singular case among other lakes in Antarctica because of 75% of the lakes reach 10 km and seldom lakes have dimension more than 30 km.

The Russian perforation of the ice thickness above the lake, in cooperation with French and American scientists, has been stopped at 3.623 m, it means 120 m from the lake surface, to avoid contaminations of the underlying water. So, at the present, the water of Vostok’s lake remains unexplored. The analysis of the ice carrots has pointed out that just above the lake ice changes its internal nature because of it melted and frozen many times. This fact can be justified assuming a large water body in the lake with a complex mechanism of circulation. Moreover some seismic profiles performed by the Russian around 60’s has furnished an evaluation of the water thickness and a relevant thickness of sediments.


Figure 1 Vostok station

This data give rise to the interest and curiosity for this subglacial lake and other similar ones for the extension, depth and dynamic of the water suggest the possibility that some ancient bacteria or other living form can be present inside this water. Vostok’s lake is the place with a unique ecosystem. The following condition are expected:

  • High pressure (about 350 atmosphere);
  • low temperature (around a 1-2 degrees below zero);
  • complete darkness;
  • at least one million of year of confinement from other living forms.

In July 2000 a specialist group Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) with the purpose of address the research and coordination the activities of subglacial lakes has been established ( - ).

Figure 2 Vostok’s lake system

The lake seems to be formed by to separate basins divided by a rock crest. This configuration suggests that to separate eco system take place with different chemical and physical condition.

During the various campaign INGV group performed RES surveys in Vostok’s lake to collect data and establish the surrounding bedrock topography and the shapes of lake’s bank.

Figure 3 Example of radargram where it is possible to recognise the lake



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