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Ukrainians in Antarctica

 

Antarctica, the ice-bound continent, was the last to appear on the maps of the world. Pioneers of Antarctic exploration described it in both poetic terms  a sleeping beauty, wrapped in the mantle of blue ice, and strewn with the emeralds of ice and snow, and in much more sinister phraseology  a cursed land in the deadly grip of never-relenting cold.

 

About AD 650, long before European geographers of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were to conjecture about the mythical Terra Australis, Maori legend told of a frozen ocean.

There are other indications that Antarctica may have been visited on expeditions before its official discovery in 1820. A map, drawn on gazelle skin, was discovered in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1929. It shows part of the western coasts of Europe and North Africa with reasonable accuracy, and the coast of Brazil is also easily recognizable. Various Atlantic islands, including the Azores and Canary Islands, are depicted, as the mythical island of Antillia. The map is noteworthy for its depiction of a southern landmass that some controversially claim is evidence for early awareness of the existence of Antarctica. The map was drawn in 1513 by Piri Reis, a famous admiral of the Turkish fleet, and presented to the Sultan in 1517. Piri Reis stated that the map was based on about twenty charts. It is believed that Piri Reis could have indeed been the first discoverer of Antarctica.

The legendary vast size of the continent shrank to nearly its present one when in 177275 the Englishman James Cook circumnavigated the globe in high southern latitude, proving that Terra Australis, if it existed at all, lay somewhere beyond the ice packs that he discovered between about 60 and 70 S.

The period from the 1760s to about 1900 was once dominated by exploitation of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic seas. Among the few geographic and scientific expeditions that stand out during this period are those of Bellingshausen, on a Russian expedition, in the first close-in circumnavigation of Antarctica in 181921; Bransfield, on a British expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula in 181920; Dumont dUrville, on a French expedition in 183740; Charles Wilkes, on a U.S. naval expedition in 183842 that explored a large section of the East Antarctic coast; and James Clark Ross, on a British expedition in 183943.

The official date of the discovery of Antarctica is January 28 1820. The discovery took place during the voyage of the Russian ships Vostok and Mirny under the command of Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (17781852; Russian explorer and naval officer, born on the island of Saarema, Estonia) and of M.P. Lazarev. The ships that circumnavigated the globe in 18191821, penetrated 70 South latitude into the Antarctic sea (now bearing Bellingshausens name). On the return trip to Russia in 1821, Bellingshausen explored the Society Islands, one of which now bears his name.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, commonly called the heroic era of Antarctic exploration, great advances were made in not only geographic but also scientific knowledge of the continent. The Englishmen Robert F. Scott and Ernest Henry Shackleton led three expeditions between 1901 and 1913, pioneering routes into the interior and making important geologic, glaciological, and meteorological discoveries that provided a firm foundation for present-day scientific programs.

In the twentieth century, race to the South Pole was led by British, American, Australian and Norwegian explorers.

In 1908 British explorer Ernest Shackleton, who had accompanied Scott on his earlier expedition, led a British expedition expressly to reach the South Pole. He and three colleagues reached the polar plateau. Lack of food forced the party to turn back within 179 km of the pole. In addition to attaining a new farthest-south point, they returned from the mountains with samples of coal. Due to the type of vegetation necessary for the formation of coal, this finding confirmed that Antarctica had once been semitropical.

In 1910 Scott returned to McMurdo Sound, again to seek the pole. In October 1911 he and four companions left their base on Ross Island and began traveling along Shackletons route, hauling their supplies on sleds. Scotts party reached the pole on January 17, 1912, only to find that Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer with experience on both Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, had reached the pole almost five weeks earlier. Scott and his party died on the return journey. With the pole conquered, explorers began to take on new challenges.

Despite these numerous land and sea expeditions, by 1920 explorers had surveyed only 5 percent of Antarctica. Advances in aviation and aerial photography rapidly increased the rate of exploration, and by 1940 most of the coast and several inland areas had been sighted and named. In 1929 American aviator Richard Evelyn Byrd flew from the Bay of Whales on the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole and back, taking aerial photographs of many square kilometers of Antarcticas interior.

By the end of the twentieth century no parts of Antarctica were left unexplored. Scientific and meteorological stations were established in various parts of Antarctica.

 

Vernadsky Station

Ukraine is among the nations that have their scientific stations in Antarctica.

The Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was a part for several decades, had its own scientific stations in Antarctica but after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine found herself without its share of the stations. But the interest in the scientific study of Antarctica was preserved and in 1993 a Ukrainian Antarctic Center was set up, and in 1994 Ukraine joined the Committee for Scientific Antarctic Research. But Ukraine still did not have a scientific station of its own in Antarctica.

In 1995, Great Britain offered to give Ukraine its Antarctic station Faraday on condition that Ukraine continued scientific research at the station at a high scientific and technical level.

Since building a new station and equipping it would involve very considerable expenses, Ukraine accepted the kind offer and in July 1995 a corresponding agreement was signed as well as a memorandum of mutual understanding between the British Antarctic Service and the Center of Antarctic Research Center of Ukraine. According to the agreement, Britain would be prepared to transfer the station into Ukraines possession in March 1996. A group of Ukrainians to take over the station was supposed to arrive in Antarctica some time before that date.

In October 1995, a group of six Ukrainian scientists, headed by Hennadiy Milinevsky, who was to be the first head of the Antarctic station, arrived in Cambridge, Great Britain, for a two-week course of training to operate equipment that was installed at the station Faraday.

The Ukrainian staff of the station was to arrive at Faraday in late January or early February 1996. But at that time voices began to be heard in Ukraine expressing doubt as to the advisability and feasibility of running an Antarctic station, so far away from Ukraine. Does Ukraine really need it? the doubting voices asked. The intention to go ahead with taking over a scientific station in Antarctica prevailed over doubts and a considerable role in this decision was played by the then head of the National Bank of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko (who became President of Ukraine in 2004). For his contribution to getting Ukraine to participate in Antarctic research, Viktor Yushchenko is considered to be an honorary member of the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine.

On February 6 1996, the British lowered their flag at Faraday and the Ukrainians raised their flag. The station was renamed and now it is called Akademik (Academician) Vernadsky.

The fist few years proved to be very tough for Ukrainian polar explorers at Vernadsky Station. Financing was limited; there was no Ukrainian ship that would make regular trips between Ukraine and Antarctica. Ukrainian polar explorers had to get to Vernadsky by foreign planes and ships. Once, a group of Ukrainian explorers from Vernadsky had to travel back home on a foreign ship in containers on upper deck. It proved to be a most trying and punishing experience, particularly in storm.

But the Ukrainian station in Antarctica continued to function without any disruptions, conducting scientific and meteorological research. In 2005, O. Tashyrev, Ph.D., after years of research, discovered bacteria which accumulated in themselves heavy metals. Thanks to this discovery, it became possible to develop and build a unit for processing refuse that accumulates at the station and has to be shipped in containers from Antarctica so as not to pollute the Antarctic environment. Thanks to this garbage processing unit, the weight of the refuse to be transported was reduced from several hundred kilos to several dozens of kilos. Such discoveries can be extremely useful worldwide. They can lead to the development of new methods of water purifying and dealing with garbage and industrial waste.

Research and observations that are done at Vernadsky include a whole spectrum of activities which concern physics of the atmosphere and near space; the ozone hole; meteorology; geophysics; geomagnetic phenomena; microbiology; oceanology; geology, and others. There is no time for the staff of the station to be idle or bored. Among the people working at Vernadsky Station are women and even a married couple. Tourists from various countries have started to visit the island of Galindez on which the station is situated in increasing numbers, and they are taken on tours led by the members of Vernadsky Station personnel. Everyone who visits Antarctica is enchanted by its special beauty, and particularly by the colors it displays at sunsets and sunrises when the sunrays dance on the tips of snow hills and icebergs, producing an unparalleled show of hues.

In 2004 the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine was elected to join Antarctic Treaty as a Consultative Party. Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM) are the international forum for the administration and management of Antarctica. Only 28 of the 46 parties to the agreements have the right to participate in decision-making at these meetings, though the others are allowed to attend. The decision-making participants are the Consultative Parties and, in addition to the 12 original signatories, include 16 countries that have demonstrated their interest in Antarctica by carrying out substantial scientific activity there. In 2008, the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine will host the 31st Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting. 350 representatives from 46 countries and Antarctic organizations are to take part in the meeting, preparations for which have already begun.

When parliament of Ukraine adopts the Bill On the Antarctic Activities of Ukraine, it will provide a considerable boost for Ukraines further development of Antarctic research.

 

Based on an essay by Volodymyr Lohinov,
a researcher of the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine,
member of the Polar Commission of the Russian Geographic Society.

Photos have been provided by the National
Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine.

 

The Ukrainian Antarctic Scientific Station Akademik (Academician) Vernadsky is situated on the Island of Galindez at 65i15 S; 64i15 W; the station is run by the National Antarctic Scientific Center of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine; director of the station is V. Litvynov, M.S. in technical sciences. The staff of the station is made up of 12 to 14 people who stay at the station all the year round. At present, there are 39 functioning polar stations in Antarctica which belong to 19 countries. Vernadsky Station conducts research and observations which make worthy contributions to science. The research and observation work done at the station has won international acclaim.

 

The importance of coordinating polar science efforts was recognized in 1879 by the International Polar Commission meeting in Hamburg, Germany, and thus the 11 participating nations organized the First International Polar Year of 188283. Most work was planned for the better-known Arctic, and, of the four geomagnetic and meteorological stations scheduled for Antarctic regions, only the German station on South Georgia materialized. The decision was made at that time to organize similar programs every 50 years. In 193233 the Second International Polar Year took place, with 34 nations participating, but no expeditions were mounted to Antarctica. The Third International Polar Year is to take place in 20072008, with more than 50,000 scientists and experts from more than 60 countries of the world participating.

 

 

 

Ukrainian scientific station Academician
Vernadsky began work in 1996.

 

 

Good friends penguins.

 

The room where the personnel
of Vernadsky Station can lounge.

 

 

 

 

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