Antarctic Research: Russia versus USA

05.02.2013

American and Russian researchers started drilling holes to under-ice relic lakes of the sixth continent practically simultaneously. Initial conditions for both teams are quite different, and so are the methods of drilling. As we have mentioned before, Russian researchers aim to drill to the Vostok Lake, and the US experts break the core of the Whillans Ice Stream. The work at both stations started by December 2012, but the first results were obtained only in the end of January 2013.

The Antarctic journey started simultaneously in two countries

Americans needed to drill a hole of 801 meters, while Russians aimed at 3770 meters. The latter managed to reach 3505 meters and are still emerging at a speed of seven meters per hour. Outside temperature at the station is bitterly low, about minus 55 degrees Celsius. Therefore, in order to prevent the freezing of the hole it is being filled with a mix of freon and kerosene. Not really environment-friendly, experts say, but obviously there are no other options.

American researchers use a more ecology-oriented method, which is suitable for holes less than one kilometer deep. They fill it with pure water preheated to 90 degrees Celsius. As a matter of fact, it's not that clean and safe either, the ecologists warm. Hot water leads to thermal pollution of the relic water body and might cause death of all microorganisms, in case there are any.

Photo: Shutterstock.