Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

The Antarctic Subglacial Lake Vostok: Glaciology, Biology and Planetology



Igor Zotikov has been involved in Antarctic glaciological research since the 1957–1958 third International Polar Year (IPY). His theoretical analyses of ice flow and heat transfer were important early contributions to our present understanding of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. These contributions were also critical to the eventual appreciation that a large body of water existed beneath the approximately 3.7-kilometer-thick ice column at Vostok Station in central East Antarctica. In his short book, titled The Antarctic Subglacial Lake Vostok: Glaciology, Biology and Planetology, Zotikov reflects on his and his colleagues' 40-year contribution to the story of Lake Vostok's discovery, and to future exploration of subglacial lake environments.

While several authors have discussed the history of subglacial lake exploration, accounts have varied. Zotikov provides, in my opinion, the fullest and most balanced explanation of Antarctic subglacial lake discovery available. For this reason alone the book is of great value as a historical resource, although there are some weaknesses. Essentially, the work highlights the fascinating background to a paper by Kapitsa et al. [1996] that led to the recognition of Lake Vostok as a deep-water body capable of supporting unique microorganisms. Since this paper, several international meetings (held in Russia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have been organized to plan for the exploration of subglacial lake environments. This book therefore charts the origin of an exciting and important new area of interdisciplinary science in Antarctica.