One of the Major Scientific Questions May Be Answered Through Research Held at the Vostok Station in Antarctica

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Subglacial Lake Vostok found in the centre of Antarctica is a unique object that is of high interest to scientists from all over the world. It is the only place on Earth capable of providing reliable paleoclimate data. History of the Lake Vostok studies is given in the following paper:

Litvinenko, V. (2020). Foreword: Sixty-year Russian history of Antarctic sub-glacial lake exploration and Arctic natural resource development. Chemie der Erde. 125652. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemer.2020.125652

Arctic explorers from different countries made numerous attempts to drill a well in a thick sheet of ice and extract a sample with an undisturbed structure. Yet only Russian researchers from St. Petersburg Mining University guided by Professor Vladimir Litvinenko, Rector of the University, managed to complete the task and pierce the ice shield. They extracted the first-ever ice core sample from the Lake Vostok with the help of a specially designed boring tool and by using original drilling technique. The well was drilled to a depth of 3,720 metres and the work was completed in February 2011. This experience is discussed in the article:

Litvinenko, V. S., Vasiliev, N. I., Lipenkov, V. Y., Dmitriev, A. N., & Podoliak, A. V. (2014). Special aspects of ice drilling and results of 5G hole drilling at Vostok station, Antarctica. Annals of Glaciology, 55(68), 173-178. DOI: 10.3189/2014AoG68A040

By studying the extracted ice sample, researchers managed to restore data on temperature and atmospheric pressure fluctuations. They got to know of changes in atmospheric circulation and wind regimes, as well as variations in the atmospheric composition on a time scale of tens or even hundreds of thousands of years. Microbiology and molecular biology studies of the ice core also make it possible to trace the evolution of microbial diversity across ice layers formed within different periods in the history of climate change on Earth.

Specific atmospheric conditions in Antarctica and state of the ozone layer nearby the Vostok station have already resulted in a world-class discovery. Through studying core samples, scientists found out that the entire ice sheet up to a depth of 3,539 metres consists of ice of atmospheric origin. Not only it is a scientific fact but also critical information, by having made use of the global community may be able to address multifaceted challenges it is facing now for the first time.

As such, the majority of people believe that it is CO2 to be blamed for global climate change. A ridiculously large amount of money is spent on solving the issue, and climate change and ecological environment are two terms that often end up being mixed up. What happens to our planet if the average annual temperature rises by 2 degrees? What about hydrates and constant methane emissions? As is known, methane’s impact on the atmosphere is by far more significant. How does the ozone layer affect Earth? What is the effect of Earth itself, with its tectonic unpredictability, on the climate?

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /

These and other questions will hopefully get answered in the coming years by researchers who are involved in the most sophisticated knowledge- and technology-intensive studies. The hope arises thereby via studying the world’s largest subglacial Lake Vostok located in the central East Antarctic Ice Sheet, approximately 4,000 meters under the surface of the ice. Projection of future research results is considered in this article:

Litvinenko, V., Leitchenkov, G.L., Vasiliev N.I. (2019). Anticipated sub-bottom geology of Lake Vostok and technological approaches considered for sampling. 125556. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemer.2019.125556

Everything connected with the research is unique: drilling rig, boring unit, ice drilling and exploration technologies. It is worth noting that the in-depth study of ice core samples helped to define paleoclimatic changes. International scientific communities widely accepted research on paleoclimatic record. The topic has become a matter of study for French glaciologists, and research results have been recognised and utilised by scientists from the USA, Canada, China, and some other countries.

Piercing the ice shield to the surface of the Lake was an immensely complex process, taking into account both technological challenges and specifics of establishing a connection between the ice cover and subglacial Lake Vostok. However, all the efforts paid off. Numerous discoveries have been already made, mostly by employees of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and St. Petersburg Mining University; others are yet to come. This way, finding solutions to the problems researchers are facing is brought closer to its ending. And although so far, there have been few publications on these revolutionary studies, their value in understanding multifaceted global challenges is enormous.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад /