The Insanely Deep Layers of Ice Covering Lake Vostok, Visualised

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Earlier this month, a team of Russian scientists finally drilled down into Lake Vostok. Everyone was incredibly excited but, how deep can a lake really be, right? Um, it turns out very, very deep, and this visualisation lends some perspective.

What I particularly like is the inclusion of the dates in this image published in Nature (see below). It only took two years to drill down 2,500 metres. Comparatively, the final 100 metres took almost four years to complete (though, admittedly, the drill did get stuck).

It's pretty mind-blowing seeing it drawn out to scale: that is one hell of a deep lake. At those depths, when they finally drilled through, the pressure was enough to see quite a surge of water. From the Nature article:

"When the drill broke through to the lake, water surged roughly 30–40 metres up the borehole, forcing 1.5 cubic metres of drilling fluid out of the top of the hole."

In fact, it's well worth reading the Nature write-up — it's fascinating stuff. [Nature]