Russian Geographic Society mulls expedition to Antarctic lake

The Russian Geographic Society is planning to send an expedition to East Antarctica, where Russian scientists will soon resume drilling works at a unique sub-glacial lake, Vostok, polar explorer Artur Chilingarov said on Wednesday.

“We are pondering the possibility…of sending an expedition to the Russian Vostok station in East Antarctica,” Chilingarov said, adding that the Russian Geographic Society will continue its historic tradition of organizing expeditions to polar regions.

Lake Vostok is hidden some 4,000 meters beneath the ice sheet. In early 2011, the ice-drilling project to the sub-glacial lake yielded the deepest ice core ever recovered, reaching a depth of 3,720 meters. Ice-drilling works will resume in December.

The sub-glacial lake has been isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. Some scientists think the ice cap above and at the edges have created a hydrostatic seal with the surface, preventing lake water from escaping or anything else from getting inside.

Ice samples from cores drilled close to the surface of the lake have been assessed to be as old as 420,000 years, suggesting that the lake was sealed under the ice cap 15 million years ago.

Chilingarov emphasized that recent expeditions organized by the Russian Geographic Society have yielded both theoretical and practical results. “The fact that polar expeditions were broadly discussed at the first Russian forum The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue contributed much to their success,” he added.

After reaching a key deal with Norway over maritime borders in the Arctic last year, Russia is hoping for similar successes at the second forum The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue to be held September 22-24.

Arkhangelsk will host the international event, which is officially intended to promote peaceful and sustainable development of the polar region and resolve questions of land rights in the resource-rich territories beneath the ice.

This year’s event expects to focus on building a transport infrastructure for the Arctic, seen as a vital cog in the existence of settlements in the far North and a key plank of any plan to exploit the region’s resources.

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