Don Juan Pond

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Don Juan Pond
DonJuanSTILL.0660 web.jpg
Satellite photo
Location East Antarctica
Coordinates 77°33′55″S 161°11′26″E / 77.56528°S 161.19056°E / -77.56528; 161.19056Coordinates: 77°33′55″S 161°11′26″E / 77.56528°S 161.19056°E / -77.56528; 161.19056
Type hypersaline lake
Basin countries (Antarctica)
Max. length 300 m (980 ft)
Max. width 100 m (330 ft)
Surface area 0.03 km2 (0.012 sq mi)
Average depth 16 in (410 mm)
Max. depth 3 ft (0.91 m)
Water volume 3,000 m3 (110,000 cu ft)
Frozen no
Islands none
Settlements Vanda Station
(14 km to the east)

Don Juan Pond, also called Don Juan, is a small and very shallow hypersaline lake in the west end of Wright Valley (South Fork), Victoria Land, Antarctica, 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) west from Lake Vanda. It is wedged between the Asgard Range to the south and the Dais Range to the north. On the west end is a small tributary and a rock glacier. With a salinity level of over 40%, Don Juan Pond is the saltiest known body of water on Earth.[1][2] This salinity allows the pond to remain liquid even at temperatures as low as −50 °C (−58 °F) due to the interference of salts with the bonding of water molecules.

Don Juan Pond was discovered in 1961. It was named for two helicopter pilots, Lt. Don Roe and Lt. John Hickey, who piloted the helicopter involved with the first field party investigating the pond.[2]


Don Juan Pond is located near lower left (southwest) corner of map

Don Juan Pond is a shallow, flat-bottom, hyper-saline pond. It has greater salinity than the Dead Sea or even Lake Assal (Djibouti) (the same is true for Lake Vanda and perhaps other lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys). It is claimed that Don Juan Pond is over 18 times the ocean's salinity and 1.3 times that of the Dead Sea. The fact that it is the only one of the Antarctic hypersaline lakes that almost never freezes is an indication of its top rank in salinity among the world's lakes. It has been described as a groundwater discharge zone. The dominant ions in solution are calcium and chloride. The area around Don Juan Pond is covered with sodium chloride and calcium chloride salts that have been precipitated as the water evaporated. Area and volume of Don Juan Pond vary over time. According to the USGS topographical map published in 1977, the area was approximately 0.25 km2 (62 acres). However, in recent years the pond has shrunk considerably. The maximum depth in 1993–1994 was described as "a foot deep" (30 cm). In January 1997, it was approximately 10 centimetres (3.9 in) deep; in December 1998 the pond was almost dry everywhere except for an area of a few tens of square meters. Most of the remaining water was in depressions around large boulders in the pond.[3]

The calculated composition for its water is CaCl2 3.72 mol/kg and NaCl 0.50 mol/kg, at the temperature of -51.8 °C.[1] That would be equivalent to 413 g of CaCl2 and 29 g of NaCl per kg of water (i.e. 44.2 percent salinity by weight).


Studies of lifeforms in the hypersaline (and/or brine) water of Don Juan Pond have been controversial.[4][5]


  • Yamagata, N.; T. Torii, S. Murata. "Report of the Japanese summer parties in Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, 1963–65; V – Chemical composition of lake waters". Antarctic Record. 29: 53–75. 


  1. ^ a b G.M. Marion (1997). "A theoretical evaluation of mineral stability in Don Juan Pond, Wright Valley, Victoria Land". Antarctic Science. 9 (1): 92–99. doi:10.1017/S0954102097000114. 
  2. ^ a b Vanjo, Grobljar. "Don Juan Pond and Lake Vanda". Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Title unknown" (csv). McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Siegel, B.Z.; McMurty, G.; Siegel, S.M.; Chen, J.; Larock, P. (30 August 1979). "Life in the calcium chloride environment of Don Juan Pond, Antarctica". Nature. 280: 828–829. doi:10.1038/280828a0. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Chang, Kenneth (28 September 2015). "NASA Says Signs of Liquid Water Flowing on Mars". New York Times. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 

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