On a windy, cold day, 11 November 2005, a large Russian ice-breaking ship Academician Federov left the port of St. Petersburg and began the month-long trip to Antarctica. Giving his best wishes to those on board, Dr. V. Lukin, Head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, made it clear that one of the most important goals of this particular expedition would be the beginning of a new step in the long saga that is the deep core drilling at Vostok Station. The expedition would oversee the drilling of the first 50 m of the last 120 m of ice at the bottom of the Vostok Station borehole, with the intention of reaching the boundary of Lake Vostok and penetrating the Lake.
For me, an old actor in this play, these words meant that people who had studied Lake Vostok for a long time and had spent more that 30 years core drilling more than 90% of the 3,500 m of ice cover, separating the Lake from our present-day environment, and had extracted thousands of meters of biologically clean ice cores, having waited for 7 years after this non-stop core drilling for fear of "contaminating the Lake", need wait no longer. A project had been designed with new devices, capable of completing the final drilling with as little contamination as possible. The idea behind the project had been open to the scientific community for years of evaluation, resulting in many positive responses. However, an article in Science (Inman, 2005), published just a month before Academician Federov left port, was not supportive of the idea. The Russian Antarctic Expedition supported by its own, and other, experts' positive remarks decided not to wait any longer and began drilling, aiming to complete penetration within a few years.
At the end of February 2006 drilling of approximately the first 27 m of the borehole was complete, with the depth of the borehole being increased from 3,623 m to 3,650 m. Each round of drilling brought to the surface about 1.6m of core and took approximately 6 hours of drilling time.
Everything has gone smoothly and the core of ice taken to the surface. Part of it has been sent back to Russia for study, while another part is stored at Vostok Station (below -56°Q.
Presently, less than 100 m of ice remains above the Lake. I believe that the first important chapter of the scientific thriller "Antarctic Subglacial Lake Vostok", will soon be complete. In about 2 years, at the end of the International Polar Year (2007/ 2008 Antarctic season), man-made equipment will make contact with Lake Vostok's water.
I believe that a result of this will be a rapid increase in interest in everything connected with the Lake, which arguably represents the greatest geographical discovery of the second part of the last century. I hope this book helps them to understand the historical and present-day situation at Lake Vostok.
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