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Ukrainian polar explorers spoke about the 25th expedition in Antartica


During the year of the coronavirus pandemic, Antarctica took a break from tourists. This was told by the head of the station of the 25th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition Yuriy Otruba.


It became unrealistic to come to Antarctica legally – the global Antarctic tour operator did not work; to go to Antarctica, it was necessary to obtain special permits from the authorities – Chile or Argentina. It’s not just sat down and drove.

Yuriy Otruba
A real Ukrainian is not afraid of the cold. Photo: National Antarctic Science Center

Therefore, there were only rare tourists on their yachts. They did not enter the station. Previously, a small team of ten people always welcomed guests from the mainland – thanks to them, the polar explorers learned some news. Although there was always Internet at the station, from the first wintering of the Ukrainians, it was allowed to use it to communicate with loved ones only from the 23rd expedition – and that was limited. And from the end of the 25th winter, there was an opportunity to chat as much as you like, and even watch a video on Youtube.

The Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Baseis located on Galindez Island, seven kilometers from Antarctica. Tourists and colleagues from neighbouring stations come here to the island only during the Antarctic warm period, which lasts from late December to April. The rest of the time here is like on a space station, only the conditions are much harsher.

In Antarctica, polar explorers celebrate all national and religious holidays and birthdays. And, like at home, they ferment cabbage. Photo: Anna Soina, Evgeniy Prokopchuk

Antarctica develops several things: to be patient, to be careful, as calm as possible and less conflict.

Ivan Parnikoza, participant of summer seasonal expeditions

Before the quarantine, up to two ships with 270 people on board a week could land on Galindez Island. The station can simultaneously enter 25 people – for them polar explorers could conduct a short excursion. But there are places where not only tourists, but also scientists cannot enter – more precisely, the latter only with a special pass. And all because human intervention in local ecosystems is harmful. For example, guests from the mainland can simply trample local plants.

The year when the pandemic was raging in the world passed calmly at the Ukrainian polar station – no one got sick. Yuri admits: of the six expeditions he was a member of, there were not one alike. In one season you can see killer whales or other animals, in another – they will no longer be. And the difference between this expedition is practically zero visits by tourists.

Unlimited Internet at the Akademik Vernadsky station appeared only at the end of the 25th expedition. Photo: Vyacheslav Marchenko

The 25th Antarctic expedition from the Vernadsky Research Base has already returned home. The 25th expedition, led by Yuriy Otruba , took 10 days to get home, but their change, the 26th expedition, took three weeks on the same path – taking into account the quarantine.

The unique beauty of Antarctic wilderness is a must-see! The local wild world is so amazing and unique that it causes a feeling of admiration. It is enough for someone to visit the ice kingdom of the Earth only once, so as not to return there again. And this continent fascinated me. This is despite the fact that we often have to work in strong wind or cold conditions, as storms happen here all the time.

Bogdan Gavrilyuk, geologist

Bogdan is a record holder among Ukrainian polar explorers. He is 49 years old, of which he spent 8 in Antarctica. He worked as a technician, mechanical engineer and geophysicist.

Polar explorers are working seven days a week. Each, in addition to scientific work, has household duties – they take shifts removing snow, cleaning the rooms, going on day and night shifts – you always need to keep an eye on equipment. Food is brought to the island once – and immediately for the whole year. Only seasonal vegetables and fruits are brought in. It is necessary to monitor both electricity and water supply. Polar explorers take with them from home only various personal small things and gadgets – the rest, including clothes, is provided by the Arctic Science Center. According to the schedule, the station only has lunch and dinner.

Yuriy Otruba. Photo: uac.gov.ua

This season for the Ukrainian expedition turned out to be successful, especially against the background of other stations, which completely abandoned scientific research and technical modernization during quarantine. An old crane for moving loads was dismantled at Vernadsky Research Base. The foundation was poured and a new powerful crane was installed, which is five times more powerful – it is important for the modernization of the station. The team changed the heating and water supply system, installed an antenna for unlimited internet, and brought in new diesel generators. Naturally, this was not done by the scientists themselves – special teams came. But if anything – polar explorers are also connected, not only the technical staff, but also the scientists themselves. In scientific terms, according to the members of the expedition, work and research were also carried out at the appropriate level.