Russian Antarctic station to resume well drilling in 2003-2004

Deep drilling work near the Russian Antarctic station Vostok will be resumed in the 2003-2004 season, Valeri Lukin, chief of the Russian Antarctic expedition, told RIA Novosti on Monday.

This matter was under discussion at the 25th consultative Antarctic conference, which took place in Warsaw last week. Russia again raised the problem of resuming work suspended in 1999, when the depth of the well leading to the unique subglacial lake Vostok reached 3,623 meters. Only 130 meters remain to be drilled to reach the relic lake waters, recalled Lukin.

He said that at the preceding conference Russia tabled a project for an all-round assessment of environmental effects of penetrating into and sampling the lake waters. This project touched off an animated discussion - some conferees still fear that such penetration may trigger irreversible pollution of the waters of the lake, which has been out of contact with the atmosphere for over one million years.

The conference decided that in 2003-2004 the well will be deepened by a mere 50 meters in order to take an additional ice sample. The project participants are sure that the deepening of the well by another 50 meters will not affect the lake's environment. Russian researchers will have to work more on the project of entering the lake's waters, said Lukin.

Ice samples from the well and future study of Lake Vostok play a great role in the climatic studies of the Earth and the evolution of terrestrial life, stressed the chief of the Russian expedition. Every layer of ice carries information on what the Earth's atmosphere was like hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Now that global warming presents a threat, this research assumes special importance for modelling probable scenarios of the Earth's climatic changes.

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