May 28, 2023

Unique samples of ancient ice, whose age reaches 1.2 million years, were delivered from Antarctica to the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg on May 3. The material was obtained by Russian scientists from the depths of the glacier near Lake Vostok. The cargo, valuable for science, arrived on board the research expedition vessel “Akademik Fedorov”. He will tell a lot of interesting and new things about the past of our planet.

This prehistoric ice stores information about changes in the Earth’s climate during the Middle Pleistocene. According to scientists, in those distant times there was a restructuring of the climate system, and the change of ice ages and interglacials began to occur with an approximate cyclicity of 100 thousand years. In addition, in the Middle Pleistocene, an increased concentration of carbon dioxide could be observed in the atmosphere, which should have influenced the transformation of the planet’s climate.

This is truly unique material that allows us to look deep into the history of the Earth and read events that took place a million years ago on its pages. The obtained ice samples will become the basis for a number of scientific studies in the field of climatology. Ancient ice cores are the most informative source that allows one to quantitatively reconstruct changes in temperature, chemical and gas composition of the atmosphere over a long period of time and suggest how the climate on Earth may change in the future, Vladimir Lipenkov, head of the AARI Climate Change and Environment Laboratory, noted.

Ancient ice core samples will be stored at the AARI under special conditions at a temperature of -45 °C. The low temperature will preserve the unique properties required for detailed analysis.

The main volume of prehistoric ice obtained during drilling at the Vostok station has been conserved in a storage facility in Antarctica. There, the temperature is naturally maintained at -55 °C.

Ice samples were received February 2, 2023 from a depth of more than 3.5 km from well 5G-5 in the glacier above Lake Vostok during the seasonal work of the 68th Russian Antarctic Expedition. As part of the glaciation-drilling team, four employees of the AARI and eight specialists from the St. Petersburg Mining University worked.

Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial reservoir on Earth. It was discovered at the end of the 20th century in Antarctica, in the area Russian Antarctic station “Vostok”after which it got its name. The hypothesis of the existence of a lake deep under the ice put forward by the famous geographer Andrey Kapitsa.

The area of ​​the lake is estimated at 16 thousand km2, the thickness of the water layer reaches 1.2 thousand m. For several million years, the ecosystem of the freshwater reservoir was isolated from external influences under the thickness of ice at a depth of about 4 km. To date, Lake Vostok remains the most poorly explored place on the planet. In January 1970, employees of the AARI and the Mining Institute began drilling the first deep well. In 1990, a project was launched to drill the fifth deep well. The first opening of Lake Vostok took place on February 5, 2012 at a depth of 3769.3 m. In 2022, scientists raised samples of ancient ice about 500 thousand years old from the depths of the glacier.

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