Lake Vostok Size report

Lake Vostok is located in eastern Antarctica at 77° S 105° E, approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) beneath Russia's Vostok Station on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS). It is the largest subglacial lake in the world. Scientists have confirmed that Lake Vostok has a large amount of liquid water, one of the largest ultra-pure water systems on Earth ever discovered.

In 1960, the Russian geographer Andrei Kapitcha flew over the Vostok region and found a large flat area on the ice sheet, which he believed to be a lake under the glacier. Russian and British scientists finally confirmed the existence of the subglacial lake in 1996 with the help of ice-penetrating radar, laser altimeters, and gravimeters.

This water body has been trapped under thick ice caps for at least a million years so Lake Vostok may be the least fluctuating lake on Earth. In May 2005, scientists discovered an island in the middle of Lake Vostok, a breakthrough in Antarctic scientific discovery. This post will introduce more details about Lake Vostok.

Lake Vostok Introduction

About 15 million years ago, Lake Vostok was sealed under the thick Antarctic ice sheet. In 2012, Russian scientists announced that they had drilled through 3,769.3 meters of Antarctic ice to reach the surface of Lake Vostok under the glacier. Antarctica has more than 140 subglacial lakes, and Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial lake known. The lake is divided into two lake basins by an iceberg ridge with a depth of about 200 meters. Among the two basins, the lake basin in the north is about 400 meters deep, and the lake basin in the south is about 800 meters deep. Scientists believe that the chemical and biological factors of the independent ecosystems in the two lake basins should be different.

Lake Vostok Size

  • Lake Vostok runs more than 160 miles (250 km) long with a maximum width of about 31 miles (50 km); the lake is roughly elliptical and covers an area of 6,060 square miles (15,690 sq km).
  • With an average depth of 432 m (1,417 ft), and a maximum depth of 510 m (1,700 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft), it holds nearly 1,300 cubic miles (5,400 cubic km) of water, and all is unfrozen fresh water.
  • The surface of this lake is approximately 4,000 m (13,100 ft) under the surface of the ice, which places it at approximately 500 m (1,600 ft) below sea level.
Quick Facts
Elevation500 m (1,600 ft) below sea level
Max. length
160 miles (250 km)
Max. Width
31 miles (50 km)
Surface area
6,060 square miles (15,690 sq km)
Max. Depth
510 m (1,700 ft) to 900 m (3,000 ft)
Water volume
1,300 cubic miles (5,400 cubic km)

Ecology

Since the discovery of Lake Vostok, there has been much speculation about what life forms exist in the lake or if there is no life. The water body has been isolated from Earth's atmosphere for millions of years, with limited nutrients and complete darkness. Most scientists agree that Lake Vostok might harbor a unique freshwater ecosystem of organisms that evolved independently from other forms of life on Earth. The base of the lake's food chain would need to derive its energy from chemical sources rather than photosynthesis.

Lake Vostok is an extreme environment with a lack of nutrients. The lake water is a supersaturated oxygen solution, and the concentration is about 50 times that of ordinary freshwater lakes. Nowhere on Earth has such high concentrations of oxygen. Any creature that lives here must be able to cope with high oxygen concentrations. They had to evolve special structures, like special enzymes, to keep them from being affected by high oxygen concentrations.

Final Words

Lake Vostok in Antarctica may harbor microbes that have disappeared from other parts of the Earth millions of years ago, making continued subglacial drilling a question worth pondering. Lake Vostok is considered to be similar to the subterranean lake of Jupiter's sixth known moon Europa. Geothermal makes the lake water under the ice in a flowing state, so it is often called an "alien lake".


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