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Vernadsky Research Base celebrates 25 years: Astonishing facts about Ukrainian station in Antarctica

Author : 112.ua News Agency

Source : 112 Ukraine

We have gathered the most vivid facts and photos of the Ukrainian station, which celebrates the anniversary of its foundation
08:39, 6 February 2021

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

The only Ukrainian Antarctic station Vernadsky Research Base would soon celebrate 25 years since its foundation. In 1996, Ukrainian polar explorers raised the flag over the earlier British Faraday station, symbolically buying it for one pound sterling.

The holiday would be celebrated even at the "state level" - President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a decree to celebrate the anniversary of its foundation.

Related: Voting at Ukrainian presidential elections ends at Antarctic Vernadsky Research Base

The station was originally owned by Britain

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all polar stations were passed to Russia, and Ukraine was left with nothing. However, Ukraine had a solid scientific base, scientists, and the potential to continue research. And thanks to a happy coincidence, Ukraine received such a station from the UK.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

The scientific base on the Argentine Islands was founded during the expedition to Graham Land in 1934-1937. In 1947, the British decided to establish a full-fledged meteorological station based on the first building on Winter Island. When the expedition arrived, an unpleasant surprise awaited it: the first building was demolished by a giant wave, only fragments remained. The first British winterers built a house from available funds. The station was named "Base F" and could accommodate 4-6 people.

Related: Tomos copy to be handed over to Akademik Vernadsky polar station

In 1954, a new building was built on the neighboring island of Galindez, where up to 10 people could winter. The last time it was rebuilt was in 1980 - a two-story building was added to the old one-story building. In 1977, Base F was renamed Faraday Station.

In 1996, 300 kilometers south of Faraday, a more modern Rozera station was opened with an airport and the capacity to accommodate 100 specialists. It became unprofitable for Britain to maintain two stations, and it was quite expensive to close.

In November 1993, the UK sent through its embassies a proposal to transfer the Faraday station on the island to one of the "non-Antarctic" countries. And already in August 1994, they decided to transfer the station to Ukraine.

This process was quite long. In 1994, the project Ukraine Returns to Antarctica was launched, for which the Vidrodzhennia Foundation allocated a grant in the amount of $ 12,000. The station was named Vernadsky Research Base.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

Expedition of the 90s, Antarctic summer 1996. R. Bratchyk, V. Pavlyk, P. Krushenytsky

The first five Ukrainians arrived at the station in 1995 together with British polar explorers, and in 1996 the first full-fledged Ukrainian expedition arrived there.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

The first weeks of the existence of the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base. 1996 year

The station is a complex of buildings for various purposes. It is located 100 km from the Arctic Circle on Galindez Island in the western part of Antarctica.

There is a meteorological and geographic observatory at the Vernadsky Research Base. The complex is built in such a way that offices and bedrooms are located in the same building. According to most friends, it is convenient, because you can enter the office in slippers and not go out into the polar cold.

Also on the island is the Word House building, a wooden hut that is a model of the early British scientific base. A flagpole has been preserved near the building.

The British transferred the station along with the equipment. In particular, there is a room with the signature Beast (beast), where since the 40s there was a too loud ionometer and it sounded like a beast.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

Now everyone can carry out a 3D tour to the polar station without leaving home.

The ozone hole and the unique Dobson spectrophotometer

Another polar relic of the station is the British Dobson spectrophotometer, a device for measuring ozone. Thanks to him, the ozone hole over Antarctica was first discovered in the 80s.

Ozone is a gas that protects against ultraviolet radiation, and it is over Antarctica that this layer of ozone becomes thin every year. So, from August to October, the ozone hole increases, reaching a maximum between mid-September and mid-October.

Therefore, polar explorers on the street must constantly use protective creams and goggles, since the radiation here is very active and harmful to the skin and eyes. In addition, during these months, scientists generally try not to go out again.

Related: Ukrainian dies at Antarctic station ‘Academician Vernadsky’

Women were not allowed to the station for 20 years

Another fact that few people knew about: for a long time, women scientists were not accepted on the expedition due to difficult weather conditions. So, after 1998 and until March 2019, women did not work at the station.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

This was explained by the fact that it was hard physical work (in winter the station is covered with snow, and the wind knocks down). You have to dig tunnels in the snow to get to the station. There was no official ban, but it was believed that wintering in the polar night conditions was too difficult for women.

In addition, women were seen as a factor of additional stress for the male team, they say, the presence of women could provoke some conflicts.

But at the end of March 2019, the situation changed. For the first time in 20 years, polar explorers were selected to the team of the 24th Antarctic Expedition on the basis of an open competition, without any gender restrictions.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

Anna Soina

Thanks to this, two women entered the expedition. Among them is Anna Soina from Kharkiv. She is a geophysicist and acts as an ozone meter at the station. The team usually asks for the ozone level before going outside, in order to understand how to protect themselves from ultraviolet radiation. She also blogs about the station's everyday life and posts photos to Facebook.

Related: First sea calf born at Akademik Vernadsky polar station, - video

Lots of penguins and incredible landscapes

All scientists, without exception, were surprised when they saw the local landscapes: everywhere there is snow, glaciers, transparent water.

"The air here is very clean; you see for many kilometers around. The snowy mountains, where avalanches come down, looks like in some kind of fairy tale," BBC quotes expedition member Yevhen Prokopchuk.

Also, penguins constantly walk around the station, their population has increased several times in recent years.

"There are a lot of penguins, gulls… We also saw a leopard seal that swam past us on an ice floe," Yevhen Prokopchuk describes.

However, the rare sun is being replaced by a long polar night. It is psychologically difficult to hold it in a confined space.

Ukrainian research and discoveries

The number of the Ukrainian expedition usually does not exceed 15 people, mostly scientists. Every year, expeditions leave for Galindez Island in the spring or late winter. Geophysicists and meteorologists set the tone since the station is focused primarily on the study of climate.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

Scientists conduct research to understand and predict global climate change. In general, scientists in Antarctica are conducting research in biology, geology, geophysics, hydrometeorology, medicine, and oceanography.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

In particular, Kharkiv biologist Andriy Utevsky, over the years of his research, discovered several new types of leeches that were unknown to science. Ichthyologist Hennady Shandikov discovered six new unknown species of Antarctic fish, BBC reported.

Also on one occasion, a dive in search of samples led to the discovery of a rock that has not yet been mapped.

Related: Akademik Vernadsky polar station ends up in snow drifts amidst late Antarctic spring

Pub at the end of the world

Yes, this is not a joke. In fact, there is a pub at the station, which was even called "the most beautiful bar in Antarctica" according to experts Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley in the book Straight Up: The insider's guide to the world’s most interesting bars and drinking experiences. The bar was even featured in the world's media.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

“If you want to go to the most remote bar in the world, let it be the tiny Faraday bar at the Vernadsky Experiment Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. In the British-built seven-seater, now owned by Ukraine, you can enjoy shots of moonshine, wine, and beer costing about three dollars,” the authors describe the pub.

The history of this bar is very interesting. It was built by the British forty years ago. Pubs are a part of British culture, but it didn't come about as planned.

One day, two carpenters came to the station to build offices at the station. They brought in a lot of wood and built only a pub for the whole year, using most of the supplies for it. They did not complete the offices for scientists and after a visit to the station by government officials, they were fired.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

The carpenters put their souls into the construction of the pub of the station. The interior is decorated with rustic wooden beams and aged paintings by famous Antarctic explorers above the seats. A dartboard hangs on the wall. There is a billiards table, ice shoes hang over the bar.

On Saturdays, polar explorers always have a rest here and arrange a festive dinner.

By the way, in the pub, there is the very same coin in denomination of one pound sterling, which the Ukrainian side symbolically paid for the station. On the Facebook page of the National Antarctic Science Center, it is recalled that the last base commander of the Faraday, Duncan Haig, jokingly demanded a symbolic payment for the station, because there is such a sign.

“I took one pound out of my pocket and gave it to Haig. He immediately ran into the workshop, grabbed the tools, and immediately hang the coin in the wooden tabletop of the Faraday bar,” Hennadiy Milinevsky, the head of the UAE 1, geophysicist, recalls.

The signature on the coin was minted the next day, so the date is not February 6, but February 7, 1996.

There is also a bathhouse at the Ukrainian scientific polar station. Around her are penguin colonies, icebergs, sharp stones, and seals.

Related: Edge of glacier falls off not far from Akademik Vernadsky station

How to join the expedition

Each year, a new expedition is formed and recruitment is announced for the team. The station requires both scientists and technical staff: diesel operator, electrician, system administrator, cook, and doctor.

Ukrainian Antarctic Station, Marina Point on Galindez Island of Argentine Islands
Vernadsky Research Base, Antarctic Station

Scientists are selected by recommendation and agreement with the scientific leadership, and technical staff - by competition, where anyone can apply.

You need to meet professional requirements and have knowledge of a foreign language (English, Spanish or other). Also among the requirements are excellent health, non-conflict, the ability to live in isolation from the outside world. You need to be ready to work in difficult conditions, to spend a year in cold and snow.

The center's website presents a procedure with four stages of the competition. You can submit an application on the website, then conduct an interview, medical examinations, and psychological coherence of the team.

It is allowed to take only 40 kg of luggage, mainly consisting of workwear and shoes.

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