Sub-Glacial Lake Vostok - A Possible Analogue for a European Ocean

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J. Cynan Ellis-Evans (2001), JBIS, 54, 159-168

Refcode: 2001.54.159
Keywords: Antarctic, Europa, sub-glacial lake, ice-covered ocean, gas hydrates

A giant lake has recently been discovered over 4 km beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet and may have been in existence for much of the 15-20 million years that Antarctica has been glaciated. The lake is an exciting new extreme environment that will likely contain a geological history of Antarctica in its sediments. Evidence of microbial life in the lake has already been obtained from accreted ice samples. The lake may contain novel micro-organisms or biological processes. These could redefine the environmental limits for life on Earth and could provide new insights to microbial evolution. Lake Vostok has yet to be penetrated but remote sensing and computer modelling are already providing clues to the processes occurring in both the ice and underlying water body and our current state of knowledge is outlined in this review. The unique nature of Lake Vostok has prompted some researchers to propose it as an analogue for environmental conditions and possible life in a Europan ocean. The two environments are critically compared here to establish the validity of this proposal.

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