Life on Lake Vostok 
A team of Russian scientists from St Petersburg are drilling through two and half miles of ice to the sub-glacial Lake Vostok, which has been cut off for more than 14 million years.


Lake Vostok is the biggest of 300 sub-glacial lakes under Antarctica, covering 15,000 square metres, with depths reaching 1,200 metres.


The lake holds priceless information about the past – information that could illuminate questions we have today about climate change and much more besides.

And, make no mistake, this is one of the world’s harshest climates. 
3500 metres above sea level, the lack of oxygen makes it difficult to breathe.  
But glaciologist Dr. Alexei Ekaykin believes it may tell us 
something about new forms of life on the planet.
Frozen Lake Vostok is an analogue of the extra-terrestrial environment 
                                                                                     found on planets like Europa, 
which is thought to conceal a liquid ocean underneath its icy surface.

Alexei is part of a team of 11 men – another glaciologist, plus nine drillers 

who live and work at the Vostok station for two months each year.

To obtain his snow samples, Alexei has to dig a pit in the snow.
He usually digs  three metres deep, 
though he once managed to burrow down 
an incredible twelve metres. 
The deeper you go, the older the snow is, 
which means it can tell scientists more about the climate of the past. 
Indoors, Alexei works in a laboratory 
on the ice core, a cylindrical piece of ice that has 
been removed by the drillers.He cuts off thin 
slices to study its properties, 
such as its gas content.
In 2012, Alexei and his colleagues penetrated the lake, 
after two decades of drilling by the Russian team. 
This year they went further. 

The Russian scientists are now analysing the samples they brought back from Lake Vostok.

Story and interview: Alice Lagnado
Multimedia online: Dan Davies 23
Video shot by Pavel Teterev
Photos by Alexei Ekaykin
Full radio feature: Voice of Russia