A hundred meters from the mystery
Almost half a century ago, huge all-terrain vehicles of the 2nd Soviet Antarctic Expedition after the hardest way reached the deep districts of Central Antarctica. Powerful machines stopped at the southern geomagnetic pole – on this place, the new Antarctic scientific station arrived at this place "East". Then, in 1957, none of the creators of the station and think that it was here, in the heart of the student sixth continent, where in the winter the literally cosmic cold reigns, the unique relict reservoir will be discovered – the largest lake in Antarctica, named subsequently East.
Last geographical discovery
The existence of fresh water – and not just water, but an extensive lake, comparable in the area with Onega, – under a huge reservoir of extremely cold ice only at first glance seems fantastic. Geographer and Geologist Prince P.A.Kropotkin still at the end of the XIX century suggested that the temperature in the thick and cold glaciers from above the glaciers, as well as in other rocks, with depth rises.
In the mid-1950s, with the help of seismic methods, it was found that the thickness of glaciers located in the central part of Antarctica reaches unusually large values - 3,500-4,000 meters. At the same time, the well-known Soviet oceanologist.N. The teeth introduced the concept of the critical thickness of the glacier, that is, such its power, at which, due to the colossal pressure, the ice temperature can reach melting points. The teeth believed that it was in the places remote from the shore. Antarctic Ice Cover is able to melt under its own huge weight, despite the very low temperature of the air and the surface of the glacier.
In 1961, the Soviet glaciologist and.A.Zotikov using the materials of the first four Soviet Antarctic expeditions, substantiated the possibility of melting on the bed of the glacier in the central part of Antarctica. Calculations of Zotikov said that part of the heat entering the founding of the glacial cover from the depths of the earth is constantly spent on the melting of the bottom ice, despite the cold on the surface. At the same time, the emerging water is extruded on those areas where the thickness of ice is less, and there again freezes. But in the deepening of the treated bed, it can accumulate and even form water-blocked water tanks overlapped by milometers – lake. The meaning of such relic lakes cannot be overestimated – their water carry information about the ancient atmosphere of the planet, the scale of volcanic activities in the land remote by the past, they have preserved bacterial forms of life, whose age perhaps is calculated by hundreds of thousands of years.
According to the calculations of Zotikov, a continuous source melting in Central Antarctica should reach 3-5 mm per year.
A little later, the scientist built a map-scheme of the regions of continuous melting at the Lodge of the Antarctic Ice Cover, according to which the whole sea of fresh water is poured under the ice shelter of the sixth continent. Neighborhood stations "Amundsen-Scott" (USA), "Bard" (USA) and "East" (USSR) of the Zotikov allocated as the most promising from the point of view of the search for treated lakes.
Then, in the early 1960s, such assumptions were met with undisguised skepticism. However, water fluttered into the well drilled at the station "Bard" To the depth of 2,164 m, all doubts were shouted at the right of Zotikov – so clearly was the practical confirmation of the constant bottom melting and the presence of coalone water in Antarctica.
So, in the early 1960s it became clear that there was a certain critical thickness of the glacier, when the ice melts began on the glacier beds. Calculations showed that already 350 km from the station "Peaceful", located on the shore of the continent, the real thickness of ice begins to exceed its critical importance, so in almost all Central Antarctica, despite the very low average annual temperatures, there is a continuous melting.
In 1959 and 1964, seismic studies conducted by a young geographer A.NS.Kapitsa in Central Antarctica, brought unexpected results. In the station area "East" The signal issued two peaks of reflection instead of one – at the marks 3 730 and 4 130 m. From this it was possible to conclude that the stratum of the glacier stretches to the depth of 3,730 m, and the indigenous rocks of Antarctica begin at a depth of 4 130 m. But what is between these two marks?
Then, these 400 meters of unknown decide to consider less dense sedimentary rocks, the lower and upper boundaries of which and recorded "echo" Seismic waves. Now we already know for sure that seismic waves "stumbled" not for sediment deposits, but on a watertime, exceeding 400 m.
In the 1970s, the British Polar Institute named.Scott performed a large program of aircraft with the sounding of radio waves of Central Antarctica glaciers. On ribbons of radiosounding, the routes in some places crossed the plots, where the reflections under the ice took a peculiar character. It was possible to assume that it was at these points that the flight lines crossed the major accumulations of the coal waters, which, then, in the 1970s, received the name of treated lakes.
The density of flights in the Antarctic Summer Seasons 1971/72 and 1974/75 with registered "water reflections" From the bottom of the glacier in the station "East" It was so great that British scientists suggested existence in the central part of Eastern Antarctica of a largely treated lake with a center about 150 km north-west of the station "East".
I must say that in 1959 the flag-navigator of the aviation detachment of the 4th Soviet Antarctic Expedition.V.Robinson when flying in the station area "East" drew attention to the significant sections of the glacier, sharply different from the rest of the surface at the moment when the plane flew away from them and the angle of view of the observer in relation to the ice shield surface was very small. On the monotonous white ice plane, dark spots were drawn, which pilots were dying "Lakes". Our pilots, making sure that these note sites are always in the same places, even used them for navigation. Now it is clear that the pilots saw exactly the plot where a huge treated lake was later discovered.
After some time, it was possible to obtain data from the ERS-1 satellite, the orbit of which made it possible to conduct radar shooting of most of the Antarctic mainland. In the picture obtained from the satellite, the large unusual form of relief in the station "East" – This on the glacial shield appeared the outlines of a huge reservoir.
In the 1960s, the idea of burial in Antarctica dangerous, and in particular radioactive, waste was widely discussed. It was assumed that during the movement together with ice to the coast, these waste will completely break down and will become safe. However, this is not the case. The main requirement for any idea of burial in the glacial coverings with a high level of radiation should be the confidence that the surrounding oceans or the atmosphere will not be infected as a result of uncontrolled leakage of radioactive waste.
However, this cannot be guaranteed if the storage devices fail and the radioactive material will begin, pulling out, fall to the glacier lie.
To solve the issue of burial in Antarctica, the fuel substances are very important to determine the degree of sustainability of its glacial cover. For the last 250 thousand. The years of the northern hemispheres appeared and disappeared under the influence of natural processes, while the dimensions of the Antarctic Ice Shield changed only by 10-20%. Our knowledge about the mechanism of the emergence and disappearance of glacial covers, changing the solar constant, geothermal flow of heat and the consequences of the influence of human activity on climate change is still insufficient to predict the future of the Ice Cover Antarctica.
Since in many areas of Central Antarctica in the extensive areas, the ice bed has a melting temperature, under the glacial cover there may be treated water tanks, and under ice – channels for which water runs in the ocean in a very short period of time. Thus, although now you can more firmly, than earlier, talking about the frozle state of some areas of the poojond bed, these areas are still relatively small, and there is no confidence that they will continue to remain marzily. It is worth adding that the large sensitivity of the glacial cover is already clarified, and consequently, the global danger, to the disposal of fuel radioactive materials, even in its upper layers.
In stationary conditions, ice particles or thermally inert pollution will be located in some areas of Eastern Antarctica for 100 thousand. years. We can predict the time of stay of the particle in the glacier cover for a thousand or ten thousand years ahead, but we have no opportunity to foresee the behavior of the Ice Cover.
Thus, Antarctic Ice Cover should not serve as a place of burial of hazardous substances that need to be isolate from the biosphere for a period of several hundred thousand years. However, for a certain answer to this question from the scientific positions of our knowledge about physics and thermodynamics of iceclocks, there is still lacking.
Looking through the ice
On the newest Cards of Antarctica, a gentle, reduced part of the glacial cover is clearly visible, under which, obviously, is a treated lake. Currently, all indirect information are investigated, testifying to the presence of a lake. With their help, we can make an idea of this unique reservoir.
Analysis of the diverse data collected in four decades, it allows you to say with confidence that the Lake East is located under a powerful (up to 3,500-4 000 m) thick mainstream ice on a significant (more than 500 km) distance from the outskirts of the continent (location of the reservoir 76 ° 30 ‘ NS.NS., 102 ° -106 ° in.D.).
The lake occupies an extensive decrease in the earth’s crust with a length of about 300 km, wide from 40 to 80 km, which is elongated in the meridional direction and has a slightly curved, crankshaft, form. The average reservoir depth, by seismic data, is about 1,000 m below sea level and about 1,500 m relative to its shores, that is, the thickness of water in the lake exceeds 500 m.
The eastern lakeside has an almost straightforward shape, while the West Bank is complicated by numerous bays and protrusions of the indigenous bed. On the elevation of the west coast, deep (more than 400 m) and narrow (up to 2 km) canyons were found. Coastal slopes on both sides of the lake are cool ledges with a height of up to 1,500 m, often complicated by small steps. The same ledges are noticed within the lake itself on the seismic profile, which crosses the southern end of its tip. In this part at the bottom of the lake with seismic studies, a sedimentary thickness of up to 300-400 m was found. In any case, the possible capacity of precipitation at the bottom of the lake is at least 100-200 m.
The features of the building of the lake East detect a lot in common with another unique reservoir – Baikal. As you know, the water of Baikal fill the rift plot of lithosphere – a narrow deep depression, formed on the site of the stretching of the earth’s crust – the embryo of the future ocean. Everything says that in the similar structure of the earth’s crust and the lake of the East – the width of the depression, which is tens of kilometers, a significant amplitude of the displacements of blocks of rocks, limiting the lake, and their stepped form are obviously associated with the stretching of the earth’s crust, as well as The crankshaft configuration and the pattern of development of faults – on the west shore of the lake.
On the existence of rhythic zones in Antarctica for a long time. So, the rift was found in the area of Lambert Eymeri glaciers and the Bay of the Pruds. This rift zone continues to the maintenance of the continent along the eastern foot of Hamburg Mountains up to 110 °.D. Here, a long valley was revealed with a width of 50-100 km and a depth of 500 meters below the sea level, inside which is rooted (not subjected to change), the mainland foundation is lowered by 5 km.
Wpadina Lake East, located 400 km from the continuation of the Lambert Glacier zone in parallel to its main direction, may be a separate link of a single large rift system that has arisen in the ancient mainland Gondwan 150 million. years ago.
Ice arms of the East
South Poor Station "East" – Polyus of the Earth cold (here is registered here the lowest air temperature of -89.2 ° C) is located in the depths of Antarctic mainland, in thousands of kilometers from the coast and other stations, at an altitude of 3,488 meters from the sea level. Around "East" Thousands of kilometers – nothing but ice and snow. Here is "Peaceful" The sannotractor train gets more than a month, the plane flies in 5 hours. The sole target for pilots is the tractor track. If the plane is smashed "East", According to the rules, he is given 20 minutes in search of the station. After this time you need to return.
On "East" sometimes there are snowstorms; Hurricane winds and Purga – rarity. But everyone who at least once visited the station, knows how heavy "Eastern" life. It can not be hurried here, quickly walk and even more so run, it is impossible to breathe deeply, sometimes you can not even go outside more than 15-20 minutes. And many more "it is forbidden" Due to the considerable height above the sea level, on which the station is located, acclimatization is very hard and almost constantly the exhaustion of physiological reserves of the body.
Newly arrived are forced to move as much as possible, sometimes just lying all the time. Like a huge severity presses per person, not letting him breathe freely. Those loads that "Peaceful" (on the coast) easily raised one person, on "East" drag together together. Evacuation from the station of people who seemed completely healthy, in general, not uncommon.
Since the beginning of the Antarctic Autumn (from March and December), communication with "East" possible only on radio. Wintering at the station for eight, and then nine months have to count exclusively on their forces. So that it happens, help will not be able to.
Is there any life in the east?
A treated lake, most likely, remained isolated from the outside world for a million years, and maybe longer. Calculations show that thermal conditions in different parts of the lake of unequal, and this causes internal flows and active energy exchange. From ice, melting on the upper roof of the lake, a certain amount of atmospheric air, which has fallen into ice from the atmosphere, which has fallen from the atmosphere of hundreds of thousands and millions of years ago. Due to the constant source melting to the lower surface of the glacier, not only fresh fresh water, but also pollen, and other organic substances brought to the glacier along with atmospheric precipitation. Under these conditions, the microfauna and microflora are obviously inhabited in the lake, which represents exceptional scientific interest. There is already evidence of organic life. They were obtained in the drilling of the well at the station "East".
I must say that by a happy coincidence, ice drilling began long before the lake was found under the station. Back in 1959, the head of the station "East" V.WITH.Ignatov with the help of thermal service managed to reach a 40-meter depth. A year later the thermobore, designed and.A. Zotikov, was able to go by 10 meters more. Due to the imperfection of the technique to achieve more impressive results, then it was not possible – the car simply frozen into the ice. The situation has changed with the arrival in 1967 by the specialists of the Leningrad Mountain Institute, which for three dozen years have been drilling ice at the station "East", Sumy to go deep into the ice stratum for 3,623 m. Initial, the main purpose of this deep drilling was to obtain a continuous ice core – a cylindrical ice column – a kind of slice of a glacier, the study of which allowed to reconstruct all climate change in our planet for the last 420 thousand. years.
To penetrate the well to a depth of 2,755 m, thermoelectribution was used, allowing to get a very nice ice core with a diameter of about 10 cm. At the Institute of Microbiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, a sampler was constructed to obtain sterile samples immediately after removing the core from the well. Analysis of such samples has already brought positive results: microorganisms at high depths in ice were found. In addition, there are tremendous interests found in cores and survived almost without any changes to pollen, disputes, volcanic ashes, air bubbles, particles of meteorites, who have been in Ice Captivity not one thousand years.
Brand new microbiological data managed to get in the mid-1990s. In the samples of ice from depths 3,551 and 3,607 m, three types of thermophilic bacteria were found, the analogues of which are developing in hydrothermal sources of active areas of oceans and continents at temperatures of 40-60 ° C. The found bacteria, apparently, live in hot springs at the bottom of the lake, using only inorganic compounds – hydrogen, carbon dioxide, thiosulfates for its livelihoods. Of course, these are only initial results, but already follow important and interesting conclusions, which suggest that hydrothermal activity in the Lake East is mainly determined by the local circulation of melt waters in the earth’s crust, when they migrate down the faults and cracks to the depth of several kilometers away, and then return to the surface of the lake, enriched with inorganic compounds serving the power source of bacteria.
From east to europe
The value of the East’s treated lake is immeasurably increased after a giant water tank was opened on the satellite of Jupiter Europe, isolated from above the multi-kilometer cover of ice. The fact is that, as scientists believes, the core of Europe due to the very beginning of Jupiter and the other two satellites – Io and Ganamed, strongly rolled, while the outer surface of Europe is cooled to -170 ° C. Such a contrast and creates a neighborhood of a huge ice shell covering a giant ice lake or sea. Thus, the Lake East is an earthly analogue of what can be expected on other planets. European researchers particularly interested in reports on the possibility of detecting in Lake East of Biological Life. Today, such a prospect is considered more than probable, despite the fact that the microscopic inhabitants of the treated lake should exist in extreme conditions – with the complete absence of light, pressure of 350 atmospheres and constantly low temperatures. The find of microorganisms in the water of the Lake East will mean that, perhaps, the first meeting with an extraterrestrial life will take place on Europe.
On the benefits of cleanliness
Study of the water of the lake East, its bottom sediments, the selection of sterile samples for biological analyzes – all this will be an extremely important stage in the path of the knowledge of the past of our planet, its evolution.But as drilling at the station "East" It is nearing completion, very serious problems arise. After all, due to the high plasticity of the ice, drilling in it is possible only when the well is filling off the well-free liquid with the same as the ice, density. Currently, the kerosene type liquids, alcohol solutions and esters are used for these purposes. All these compounds have one common and very significant drawback – they are toxic.
And to the poisoning action of these liquids, the lower forms of life are especially susceptible. When the well reaches the bottom and passes the entire 4-kilometer layer, some part of the casting fluid will fall into the lake, which, of course, is undesirable.
There is a difficult engineering task – to prevent pollution of the lake at the end of the drilling of ice. True, the calculations of domestic professionals show that such pollution will be negligible to a little – one molecule on one cubic meter of water in the lake. But still the objections of a number of scientists who are fascinated by the pollution of this unique reservoir exist.
To prevent ingress of toxic substances in Lake, in 1998 at the SCAR meeting, the International Scientific Committee on Antarctic Studies – was decided to suspend drilling to develop an environmentally friendly penetration method into a reservoir. Today, the well is passed to a depth of 3,623 m, which means that about 150 m remained to the surface of the lake.
Unfortunately, there were no relation to science. Russian researchers collided with the obvious reluctance of a number of states to give priority in the study of the Lake East to our country. Even appeared of proposals to prohibit drilling to Russian specialists in general, to put the well and start penetrating into the lake, using, for example, American technologies. Solving the issue of resuming drilling at the station "East" delays under various, sometimes far-fetched, pretexts. Moreover, Russian scientists have become very difficult to publish their works related to the study of the Lake East, in foreign scientific journals. At the same time, out of any communication on the same topic of their foreign colleagues. All this is due to the concerns of some foreign organizations to lose powerful financing, if Russia is the first to reach the relic lake. Domestic specialists have accumulated tremendous experience of deep drilling, it was they who for several decades took care of the sterility of the core and well, and there is no reason for doubt about their professionalism.
Currently, in the St. Petersburg Mountain Academy, an environmentally friendly penetration technology has been developed in a substnicker lake based on the use of safe silicone fill liquids and received a positive conclusion of specialists. In the nearest plans of the Russian Antarctic Expedition – to drill the remaining 125 m glacier stratum over the lake. It is first supposed to overcome 50 m to obtain a new ice core and on new samples to confirm the hypothesis about the existence of thermophilic bacteria in the water environment of the lake, and then enter the lake, without polluting it to determine the characteristics of the gas and chemical composition of lake water and microbial communities, inhabiting lake and its bottom sediments. So, the grand scientific process of drilling a well at the station is nearing "East", started in the 1970s. He is replaced at no less ambitious research of the East Lake. And today there is every reason to believe that very soon we will get data from Antarctica about the past climate of the Earth over the past 800 thousand. years, which has not only cognitive interest, but will certainly help understand the problem of global changes in the upcoming century.
Ice, oil and gas
Proven now – and theoretically, and experimentally – a poignant melting in Central Antarctica has very important investigations. The presence of liquid water under multi-kilometer thickness of the glacial cover, obviously leads to the formation of a substnicker drainage network. Stop water in the center of the iceboards of the Antarctic type serve as a high-pressure hydraulic transmitter into deep layers of rocks. It causes the movement of liquids and gases in the rocks to the periphery of the shields. Thus, you can explain the large deposits of oil and gas in the peripheral parts of the ancient glacial covers of Europe and America. From here it is clear that in Antarctica, the edge of the ice cover and the antarctic shelf framing the fields may contain significant accumulations of oil and gas.