Tonight we had the honor of visiting Verdansky Research Base, operated by the Ukraine. Originally established by the British as 'Base F' in 1947, the station was 30 years later renamed 'Faraday Station' in honor of the scientist Michael Faraday, whose accomplishments in electromagnetic radiation were right in line with much of the geomagnetic and upper atmosphere research conducted at the base. In fact, regular UV radiation readings conducted at the base resulted in the first significant evidence of ozone depletion over the Antarctic continent.
But I digress. Through the latter third of the century the UK was consolidating its 27 Antarctic research stations into a small number of bases. Some were abandoned, others dismantled. In 1996 the UK sold Faraday Station to the Ukraine for the sum of one British pound and the condition that the Ukraine would continue the research currently in progress, and thus the first Ukrainian team moved in to the base in February of 1997.
Piling in to the station's mud room, we were greeted by the station's IT guy who was also our tour guide. His Ukrainian accent was strong, his English presentation was well-rehearsed, and the jokes he sprinkled throughout the tour were all the funnier for their dry delivery.
Everyone manning Vernadsky Station is an overwinterer. Vernadsky operates on a 13-month rotation schedule, with one month overlap for the outgoing team to transfer responsibilities, traditions and knowledge to the incoming team. There are only 14 people on the station, 13 men and one woman, who's husband is also on the station.
Signs of the station's British origins linger (literally and figuratively) throughout the station's halls and lore. Much smaller and more rustic than Palmer Station, Vernadsky was eager to share everything about itself. We were clearly told their photography policy: "Take pictures of everything and share those pictures." The more publicity the station gets, the better the station fares.
While a relatively small research station, Vernadsky is not without its idiosyncrasies. While still a British base, the station once received a shipment of wood and orders for the base carpenters to construct a new pier to replace the old, faltering pier. The carpenters, thousands of miles from authority, decided that the old pier still had a few years left and proceeded to use the wood to fashion a traditional English bar instead. While they received a stiff reprimand for their choice, they started a tradition of stiff drinks on the base that survived, nay, was enhanced by, the transition to the Ukrainians.
Visiting the bar, which incidentally houses the ceremonial one pound note that bought the station, has become a rite of passage in the Antarctic. The Ukrainians distill their own Vodka using centuries-old ice harvested from a nearby glacier, and they pour it freely to any who ask (and convince those who don't). Adding to the lore of the Faraday Bar, the wall holds a collection of bras donated by women who have visited the station. Taking one for the team by giving one to the team, Daveen fulfilled our traditional obligation.
We drank, talked, and danced with the Ukrainians until after midnight, when the station master politely reminded us that even though the sun was still shining his men needed to get to sleep so they would be functional in the morning, and so with vodka-warmed hearts and bellies we made our way back to our own roving base, knowing that soon one of the Vernadsky crew was going to have to make a glacier trek again soon, because more vodka won't make itself.
Read the next chapter: Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset
Table of Contents:
Introduction: Telling the Story posted Jan 10, 2009
Day 0: Positioning posted Jan 12, 2009
Leaving, on a jet plane posted Jan 12, 2009
Day 1: The Herc posted Jan 15, 2009
Day 1: Penguino posted Jan 16, 2009
Day 2: Chicken posted Jan 17, 2009
Day 2: Leopard posted Jan 19, 2009
Day 2: Snow Day posted Jan 22, 2009
Day 2: Shipwreck posted Jan 26, 2009
Day 2: Totally Tabular posted Jan 27, 2009
Day 3: Gentoo Cute posted Jan 29, 2009
Day 3: Lichen Shag Glacier posted Feb 3, 2009
Day 3: Palmer Station Visit posted Feb 9, 2009
Day 4: Icy Penguins posted Feb 11, 2009
Day 4: Adelie Awesome posted Feb 15, 2009
Day 4: Leopard Seal Attack posted Feb 17, 2009
Day 4: Kayak posted Feb 19, 2009
» Day 4: Vernadsky Station Visit posted Feb 23, 2009
Day 4: Vernadsky Sunset posted Feb 25, 2009
Day 5: Antarctic Circle posted Feb 27, 2009
Day 5: Polar Plunge posted Mar 5, 2009
Day 5: Mouth of The Gullet posted Mar 13, 2009
Day 5: Ice Camping posted Mar 18, 2009
Day 6: Flamingos on Ice posted Mar 20, 2009
Day 6: Mountain Climbing posted Mar 24, 2009
Day 6: Ice Textures posted Mar 26, 2009
Day 6: Antarctic New Years posted Apr 2, 2009
Day 7: Crystal Sound Icebreaker posted Apr 9, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 1 posted Apr 17, 2009
Day 7: Abandoned Antarctica: Base W - Part 2 posted Apr 21, 2009
Day 8: Bird Watching in the Fish Islands posted Apr 23, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 1 posted May 5, 2009
Day 8: Icee Day - Part 2 posted May 11, 2009
Day 9: Port Lockroy - Base A posted May 20, 2009
Bonus Chapter: Baby Penguins! posted May 21, 2009
Day 9: Antarctic Humpback Whales posted June 3, 2009
Day 9: Dallmann Butt Sliding posted June 11, 2009
Day 10: Birthday Whales posted June 23, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 1: The Birds posted July 15, 2009
Day 10: Hannah Point Part 2: Elephant Seals posted July 22, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 1: Walking on the Moon posted Dec 11, 2009
Day 10: Deception Island - Part 2: The Martian Chronicles of Oz posted Dec 15, 2009
Day 11: Emperor Penguins posted Jan 8, 2010
Day 12: Black and White and Pink All Over posted Aug 4, 2011
More chapters posted every few days...
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