GNF - Lake Vostok

Lake Vostok – Honorary Member of Living Lakes


Gigantic freshwater lake found unter 4 km of ice

Almost 4 km beneath the East-Antarctic ice sheet, Lake Vostok, a vast freshwater lake was discovered 1996 by using ice-penetrating radar and artificial seismic waves. Lake Vostok is the oldest, most pristine lake in the world and it never has been disturbed by humankind yet. It is one of more than 70 lakes, which have been identified under the Antarctic ice sheet. Scientists estimate Lake Vostok''s age at 35 million years. The lake has been completely isolated for 500,000 years and could contain ancient bacteria and micro-organisms with a unique gene pool unchanged since a time when Antarctica was covered with green forests.


Lake Vostok is thought to be one of the world''s largest lakes, 48 km wide by 225 km long and 914 m deep, covering an area of more than 10,000 km².

The purest lake in the world – a victim of science?

Since the discovery of Lake Vostok NASA is interested in drilling into this ancient lake, to prepare for planetary missions such as to one of Jupiter''s moons, Europa. This moon has a surface of frozen water. NASA officials expect an ocean of liquid water underneath the ice. Speculating that life may exist in this theoretical, extraterrestrial ocean, NASA would be able to use Vostok for a trial exploratory run. Currently Lake Vostok is a long-term target for the exploration through sampling and in situ experiments.

An ice core was drilled by a team of U.S., Russian, and French scientists at Russia''s Vostok Station on the lake''s western waterside. But drilling was stopped about 120 m above the estimated surface of the water to avoid contamination of the lake. To prevent the ice hole from freezing up, the Russian scientists have been pouring diesel fuel into it. Now there is too much drilling fluid to be safely pumped out of the hole, Russian officials have reported. Drilling into the pristine waters of Lake Vostok could cause a major and lasting impact.


Since now the pristine waters of Lake Vostok are still untouched. No one wants to take the risk of contaminating by just a single mistake. So why don’t we leave Lake Vostok like it is, pure and undisturbed?

The Living Lakes delegates elected Lake Vostok as honorary member at the 7th Living Lakes Conference. The conference took place in the run up to the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 and was opened by UNEP-Executive Director Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer. A petition was handed over to Professor Töpfer by GNF, calling for the conservation of Lake Vostok for the following generations and preservation of this pristine Lake.