Lake Vida is the coldest on Earth. Located on the Antarctic, this lake remains frozen all year with average temperatures of 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also saltier than normal seawater.
Not much has been known about this lake up to a few years ago. Scientists managed to reanimate microbes found in the lake’s ice from thousands of years ago.
Why Lake Vida is important
There are barely any humans in Antarctica, and specifically around Lake Vida. There’s a nearby Vida weather station but it sends out temperature readings automatically. There are no economic prospects for the area either.
But the world’s coldest lake is a time capsule, specifically for ancient DNA. This lake’s surface has frozen thousands of years ago. This means it’s living micro-organisms had no contact with the outside world for thousands of years. This is the sole reason so many scientists come here to look for signs of ancient life. Some believe they can get a better understanding of alien life by studying this enclosed frozen lake.
Why Lake Vida is interesting for scientists
What we know for sure is that the lake offers new hope for studying life on Earth a few thousand years ago. We can also understand life under extreme conditions here if we know how to interpret the results.
Scientists from the University of Chicago put this lake on the map when they announced successful reanimation of bacteria frozen 2.800 years ago extracted from this lake. This is a world-first and it can offer answers to crucial evolutionary questions.
The lake also has an interesting chemical composition. Scientists were mostly interested in how its waters could have sustained life in the conditions in which the lake has very low oxygen levels. It turns out molecular hydrogen was the reason some bacteria survived there.
You might think all of these ancient bacteria facts would lead to naming Lake Vida as one of the oldest in the world. But the lake is not the oldest, only the coldest. Lake Baikal in Russia is the oldest. It’s estimated it was formed millions of years ago. This lake is also very cold. During the winter, it tends to freeze up completely. The ice here is so thick that trucks can pass over the lake easily. But this ice tends to melt in the summer.
The surface of Lake Vida remains frozen, even in summer
As a result, Lake Vida remains the coldest in the world. Its frozen surface never melts away. It remains frozen even in the summer. But the fact that it’s the coldest in the world is not as interesting as the fact that it trapped some of the oldest bacteria known and unknown to the science world.
It is estimated that thousands of new types of bacteria can be found here. Drilling techniques are used to extract ice and water from the lake to minimize human intervention and to maintain the lake’s surface frozen. It’s these techniques that are going to allow scientists to make new discovering simply by analyzing ice from thousands of years ago.