(-89 degrees celcius) was recorded here on
the 21st July 1983. It’s an unlikely setting for
a lake of liquid water.
But in the 1970’s a British team used airborne
radar to see beneath the ice, mapping the
mountainous land buried by the Antarctic ice
sheet. Flying near the Vostok base their radar
trace suddenly went flat. They guessed that the
flat trace could only be from water. It was the
first evidence that the ice could be hiding a
But 20 years passed before their suspicions were
confirmed, when satellites finally revealed that
there was an enormous lake under the Vostok
base. It is one of the largest lakes in the world —
at 10,000 square km it’s about the extent of Lake
Ontario, but about twice as deep (500m in places).
The theory was that it could only exist because the
ice acts like a giant insulating blanket, trapping
enough of the earth’s heat to melt the very bottom
of the ice sheet.
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