Don's Diary

November 24, 2000


Film contributions to a BBC Horizon programme on Lake Vostok. Hours of questioning for a few minutes airtime. Lake Vostok is an enormous lake discovered beneath the Antarctic ice sheet only a few years ago. As a polar scientist, I am fascinated by this lost world but I also want to protect its pristine status. I still research ordinary polar lakes, but subglacial research takes up much of my time.


Leave wet, windy Cambridge for a week in a subtropical, but strangely named, town of College Station in Texas. Co-write with four international colleagues a science/management plan for subglacial research, effectively our prospectus for interested researchers and funding bodies.

Visit Berkeley to help plan exploration of a smaller sub-glacial lake at the South Pole. Mention need for full environmental impact assessment. Not what they want to hear as an EIA will be time consuming, but these lakes are too precious.


Give a talk to the British Interplanetary Society on Lake Vostok as an analogue for an ice-covered ocean on Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Disappointed them by suggesting there may be little, if any, life in a Europan ocean. Physicists seem uncomfortable with a biologist spouting thermodynamic realities. Seems they secretly hanker for an alien ocean brimming with life.

Just heard the European Union will fund my arctic lakes project.


Find myself staying in Kruger Game Park, South Africa, for a workshop to devise an international programme on terrestrial/freshwater research in Antarctica. Number of my ideas are adopted but I have to accept a coordination role so lots of work ahead. I am interviewed for a Discovery Channel programme about extreme environments.


Fly to Amsterdam for the day to follow up Kruger Park meeting. Excellent news, subglacial lakes science plan has been approved by the powers that be in Antarctic research and I am appointed to the specialist group on subglacial lakes that will develop the Lake Vostok programme. At last things are getting under way.


In the High Arctic (Spitsbergen, Norway) with two Austrian collaborators for a month of field research on the effects of increasing UV radiation at high latitudes on lake organisms. Doing 20km treks over barren landscapes with backpacks full of lake water, working 16-hour days, seven days a week and it is wonderful. Even finished a paper.


Start organising a Vostok workshop for next summer. The Horizon film is screened. Suddenly everyone knows about Lake Vostok and celebrity beckons. Reality is school half-term, getting very wet on a narrowboat and playing board games.

Cynan Ellis-Evans has been leading freshwater research by the British Antarctic Survey for the past 20 years.

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