The dry valleys of southern Victoria Land, constituting the largest ice-free expanse in the Antarctic, contain numerous lakes whose perennial ice cover is the cause of some unique physical and biological properties 1-3. Although the depth, temperature and salinity of the liquid water varies considerably from lake to lake, the thickness of the ice cover is remarkably consistent1, ranging from 3.5 to 6m, which is determined primarily by the balance between conduction of energy out of the ice and the release of latent heat at the ice-water interface and is also affected by the transmission and absorption of sunlight. In the steady state, the release of latent heat at the ice bottom is controlled by ablation from the ice surface. Here we present a simple energy-balance model, using the measured ablation rate of 30 cm yr-1, which can explain the observed ice thickness. ?? 1985 Nature Publishing Group.