Considered to be one of the last frontiers on earth, Antarctica is a place where many fear to tread. The land is inhospitable, cold, and dry and is near twice the size of Australia. Although the land has been known for decades before then, it was noted to be the last explored continent on earth as it was unseen until 1820. A Russian expedition finally came in contact with the land but it still went uncharted for most of the 19th century. This was mostly because the hostility of the environment didn’t allow a space for people to land here until 1895 when a team of Norwegians finally set foot on the continent. In the 21st century, Antarctica is a place primarily of science. More than 4,000 scientists from countries all over the world come here yearly and call the continent home for a few months out of the year. Antarctica is a place that is quite literally unlike anywhere else on earth with unparalleled beauty, and a lot of that beauty can be witnessed in these most gorgeous lakes in Antarctica.
1. Mercer Lake
Mercer Lake was discovered accidentally in 2007 by a woman from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography while using a radar device to find glacier activity. The lake is known as a subglacial lake which means that it is covered by a sheet of ice about 1,000 meters (3,501 feet) thick. The water below the ice sheet is known to be hydraulically active and is unfortunately at risk of melting and possibly collapsing due to global warming.
2. Lake Vostok
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Lake Vostok is one of the more busy lakes in Antarctica as plenty of scientists have camped here throughout the years and continue to do so, geologically surveying the lake and land. Lake Vostok was named by the Russian expedition who found it and named it after a warship meaning “East” in Russian. Russian scientists theorized about freshwater located under the ice shelf here as early as the 19th century and by 1969 it was confirmed to be true by the team of scientists. Lake Vostok is also home to Camp Vostok where the scientists live. Currently, American, British, and Russian geologists stay here.
3. Lake Vida
If you were going to write a horror movie about Antarctica, start at Lake Vida. Lake Vida is in the Victoria Valley and is isolated under a sheet of ice. Several aspects of Lake Vida are interesting. For one thing, the lake is known to be very salty and salinated, even much more so than seawater. Lake Vida has come to public attention in the last 20 years. In 2002, scientists managed to dethaw and reanimate a 2,800-year-old microbe frozen in water. Several microbial life forms have been found frozen in Lake Vida that may indicate the sustainability of life forms on other planets.
Address: Victoria Valley, Antarctica
4. Lake Whillans
Lake Whillans was also discovered in 2007 and is named after an Ohio State glaciologist. The lake is known to be subglacial and on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. Lake Whillans is only 7 feet (2 meters) deep but it is 2,600 feet (800 meters) under the surface of the ice. In 2015 it was discovered that fish and jellyfish inhabit the waters below the ice shelf.
5. Lake Untersee
Lake Untersee is a German-named lake meaning “Lower Lake” in the language. The lake is quite famous as it is the largest surface freshwater lake on the continent. Unlike some of the other lakes in Antarctica, this one is not subglacial but it is bounded by large mountains and glaciers making it a pretty beautiful sight to behold. Ice covered the area over 100,000 years ago and it has helped scientists research the possible effects of climate changes in the coming decades.
Address: Queen Maud Land, Antarctica
6. Lake Vanda
Located in Wright Valley, Lake Vanda is actually one of the more touristy lakes in Antarctica. The lake is long and skinny and for a long time was administered by New Zealand. The lake is known as hypersaline, meaning it is very, very salty - even more than the Dead Sea - and although it is mostly covered by ice year-round, some melting in late December forms a moat to the shore. Lake Vanda is also home to Vanda station. You might be wondering why it is a more touristy lake - the reason is that Lake Vanda is home to Royal Lake Vanda Swim Club. Visitors can take a dip in the water and soak in the saline (much like they would in the Dead Sea) and those who do get a shoulder patch to commemorate the event.
Address: Wright Valley, Antarctica
7. Lake Fryxell
Lake Fryxell is located between two major glaciers at the end of an area known as Taylor Valley. Lake Fryxell has been known by people since the 1990s as it was charted by scientists. A weather station is located at the lake along with a camp that has been here since 1984 and those that live here work primarily in research, making scientific experiments on the lake.
Address: Taylor Valley, Victoria Land, Antarctica
8. Lake Bonney
Lake Bonney is perhaps one of the most noted lakes in Antarctica as it was surveyed by the first British expedition to the continent in 1901 and then again in 1913 when it was formally given its name. Lake Bonney was named after the British geology professor Thomas Goerge Bonney. In 2007, researchers discovered an ancient ecosystem by a glacier beneath the lake. Currently, the lake is still being studied for ecosystems.
Address: Taylor Valley, Victoria Land, Antarctica.
9. Don Juan Pond
Don Juan Pond is more than just a funny name to say out loud. The hypersaline lake is near Lake Vanda and is known to be the second saltiest body of water on earth and as such, the saltiness allows the lake to remain in a liquid state despite the extreme cold temperatures of the Antarctic. Don Juan Pond was named after the helicopter pilots who discovered the lake in 1961 and were the first people to investigate the pond.
Don Juan Pond
Address: Wright Valley, Victoria Land, Antarctica.
10. Lake Priyadarshini
Lake Priyadarshini is located in the area known as Schirmacher Oasis which is in itself a pretty interesting place. Known for milder temperatures, Lake Priyadarshini rarely gets colder than -22 C (-8 F) and gets 350 hours of sunshine a month. The lake is freshwater and supplies nearby Maitri Station. Lots of wildlife can be found nearby as well as various kinds of flora.
Address: Schirmacher Oasis, Antarctica
Although mostly frequented by scientists and researchers, lakes in Antarctica have some of the most rugged beauty found on this planet. The land is desolate and cold but the lakes are fascinating places that are also important for research and scientific discovery for the future of the Earth.
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