Embargoed until 3 p.m. EDT
NSF PR 02-47 - May 28, 2002
Three Nations Agree to Share Ice Core That May
Yield Clues About Nature of Lake Vostok
Scientists to discuss Lake
Vostok research at webcast press conference
Scientists from the United States, France and Russia
will equally share samples of an 11.7-meter (38.5-foot)
ice core taken from the ice sheet above Lake Vostok,
deep in the Antarctic interior, under the terms of
an agreement worked out among representatives of the
nations' Antarctic research programs.
Glaciologists, geochemists and biologists will use
the lower portions of the Vostok ice core, which was
drilled in 1998, to learn more about the subglacial
lake known to exist under the ice at Russia's Vostok
Station, high on the polar plateau. Joint investigative
protocols will allow scientists to explore some intriguing
questions about the lake while insuring the compatibility
and consistency of individual investigations.
Major questions that will provide the framework for
future research on the ice core include: How is the
ice formed and what is its age? What does the geochemistry
of the ice reveal about the lake and its origin? What
kinds of organisms are present in the lake and how
did they get there?
The agreement was reached at a meeting of U.S., French
and Russian scientists held in April at the National
Science Foundation (NSF) headquarters in Arlington,
Va. Participants included the directors of the U.S.,
French and Russian Antarctic programs as well as scientists
and program managers who support or conduct research
on the Vostok ice core.
NSF funds and manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which
supports almost all U.S. research on the continent
and in surrounding waters.
The ice samples were drilled at Vostok Station under
the terms of a U.S., French and Russian scientific
collaboration that has made important contributions
to the understanding the last 420,000 years of the
Earth's climate. Research on these samples has delivered
valuable insights for understanding the forces that
drive climate change.
The samples governed by the agreement were left at
Vostok Station until the 2001-2002 austral summer,
when arrangements were made to bring out some of the
remaining ice from a storage trench. They represent
roughly the bottom 12 meters of the ice core and are
thought to have formed from accretion, the process
by which water from the lake freezes onto the base
of the ice sheet. This ice is different from the core
that provided the Vostok climate record.
A plan developed at the NSF meeting will allow the
three nations to cooperate and share the samples in
such a way as to maximize the scientific return and
ensure an accurate comparison of results.
Most notably, participants devised a plan to use a
piece of the accretion ice for comparative study of
ice-decontamination methods for biological studies.
This procedure will ensure that research results obtained
in different laboratories can be compared without
undue concern about sample contamination.
Existing collaborations between French and Russians
scientists and among U.S. scientists will continue
and will allow analyses of the shared core to begin
in the very near future.
Scientists from the U.S., France, and Russia will continue
to examine the ice after a review of research proposals
submitted to the nations' Antarctic programs. Plans
for a future subglacial lake exploration and research
are scheduled for discussion at an upcoming meeting
in Shanghai, China in July.
A four-person panel of researchers from the U.S., France
and Russia is scheduled to discuss recent research
conducted at Lake Vostok during a press conference
at 3 p.m. EDT on May 28 as part of the spring meeting
of the American Geophysical Union in Washington D.C.
NSF webcast the press conference live on May 28, 2002.
View the archived webcast at: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/02/lvostok.htm.