Even at the South Pole the war rages on. Researchers and support personnel are detained at the Ukrainian polar station Vernadski. The squad will not be relieved by new expedition members in March as planned, writes technology site wired† For some, that means an extra year of hibernation.
The researchers follow the battle 15,000 kilometers away in uncertainty about the fate of friends and family. “It is a torment to be here and not to fight against the occupation of my homeland,” polar doctor Andrii Khytri told wired† “I would have been more useful if I could have treated the wounded in an OR or a first aid station, or on the battlefield.”
The scientists were just at the end of a 13-month stay in Antarctica when the Russians invaded Ukraine. The Ukrainian Antarctic Center (NANC) had the new batch of researchers at the end of January announced† The scientific staff would mainly consist of meteorologists and biologists, with more women (three) than ever. And the organization proudly named one of the youngest participants, 21-year-old IT specialist Volodymyr Khomko. But unfortunately: most of the intended expedition members are stuck in Kiev and Kharkov, a NANC spokesperson said wired know.
The Vernadski polar station is located on an island in the Wilhelm Archipelago, west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The climate is relatively mild, for Antarctic standards. Temperatures are still around freezing, but will creep below that as winter sets in. The stations are named after the Russian-Ukrainian geologist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945). He is regarded as a great scientist in the Russian language area.
A symbolic amount
The base was once British and was called Faraday Station. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia claimed ownership of all five Soviet research stations. Ukrainian requests to transfer one station were not granted. The British sold Faraday Station in 1996, in operation since 1947, for the symbolic sum of one pound.
Since then, Ukrainian researchers have been producing a steady stream of research, especially in the fields of meteorology and biology. About glaciers† About parasites in ice cod. About birds† About radio fluctuations (Q bursts) after lightning.
The Ukrainian polar program has expanded in recent years. Ukraine took over former British research vessel James Clark Ross on August 21 last year. The ship has been christened Noosfera, after a philosophical concept introduced by Vernadski and French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The noosphere is the sphere of ‘reason’, the stage in the evolution of the earth in which the consciousness of man shapes the planet. The Noosfera is currently on its way to Vernadski with supplies.
The Ukrainians posted a call to their Russian colleagues. With the yelping of Adélie penguins in the background, they ask their fellow scientists: “Do everything in your power to stop the war started by your leaders. Go protest, support us and stop your children from becoming murderers and dying ingloriously in a foreign land.”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on 12 March 2022
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of March 12, 2022