Friday, 16 January 2009

Vernadsky Station and Wordie House 09/01/2009

Remember - if you want to see a larger version of any picture - just double click on it

Day 13 January 9th 2009

The Ukraine's Akademic Vernadsky Station is located on Galindez Island within the Argentine Islands. It was purchased from the British for the nominal price of £1 in 1996 as it was cheaper to sell the station that remove the buildings. As a British hut, Faraday base (or Station F) was occupied continuously for 49 years between 1947 and 1996. Research conducted from this site focused on geophysics, meteorology and now ionospherics. This is also where scientists first observed a depletion in the ozone layer, now known as the ozone hole. The Ukrainian scientists at Vernadsky are continuing this ozone research in addition to studies focusing on geomagnetism, meteorology and glaciology.

The highlight of the day was supposed to be us calling in on the Ukrainian Research base in the Argentine Islands. Whilst this was interesting, the actual highlight for us was something else - Wordie House.

Vernadsky Station is a research base in the Antarctic Archipelago also nicknamed the Banana Belt because it is warmer here than at the South Pole.

Vernadsky Station Station

Landing was relatively easy for once

Landing Quay

 Station Logo

the pin in the top left hand corner of the map below shows the geographical position of the station

Location of Station

Station Position

One suspects that the Ukrainians earn considerable funds from boats such as ours in that postcards can be purchased and posted at an exorbitant fee because they have a unique postage mark and it also claims to be the southern most post office in the world, passports are stamped, "souvenirs" can be

Stamping Passports

bought and there is a bar which serves free vodka to females donating some underwear.

We were given a tour of the research wing and some of the facilities - below is the gym and then the medical room


Medical Room

 Ski Room

We also saw a few labs. If ever you want proof that the South Pole is getting warmer, it is provided by this

The Pole is getting warmer

chart which records average temperatures at the station from 1945 to 2004 and shows an increase in temperature of 2.7 degrees.

The base is 14081 kms from London but because of its origins, still

Two Travellers 14081 kms from London

exhibits a certain British sense of humour, note the "neighbourhood watch" sign,

British Humour

and "beware of birds". This has been taken

Beware Birds 

up by the Ukrainians to a lesser extent with their hopes for palm trees.

Ukranian Humour

It was commented upon by someone in the party that in the official station photographs, the Ukrainians (top photo) look very smart (therefore by implication, the British in the bottom photo do not).

Smart Ukranians Untidy British

On a nearby island is an historical monument to early British Antarctic scientific exploration. We were the first group to visit Wordie House that year because it has been cut off by pack ice and snow until now - the thickness of

Pack Ice on the way to Woodie

snow in the area is some 15 metres as shown in the photograph below.

Its all snow

Wordie House (extracted from information boards inside the house)

Historic Site and Monument No 62
Winter Island, Argentine Islands
65 deg 15 min S, 64 deg 16 min W

Britain's history in Antarctica began when Captain James Cook first circumnavigated the continent in 1773-75 and discovered a "country doomed by nature to lie buried under everlasting ice and snow". Cook was followed by the expeditions of Sir James Clark Ross, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and Captain Robert Scott which all led to important early geographical and scientific findings about Antarctica.

The UK's permanent presence in Antarctica dates back to 1943 when the Royal Navy mounted Operation Tabarin whose objective was to provide reconnaissance and meteorological information concerning the South Atlantic Ocean through establishing a sting of small stations along the Antarctic Peninsula.

Argentine Islands Base F was established on 7th January 1947 on Winter Island on the site of the hut originally established by the British Graham Land Expedition 1935-36/ It was continuously occupied until February 1954 when the base was relocated to Marina Point, Galindez Island. The base on Winter Island was reopened during the winter of 1960 to house a party of six men who were unable to establish a base on Adelaide Island

Initially the research carried out from the station was predominantly meteorology. This began one of the longest and most important meteorological data sets from the Antarctic.

The original station hut "Wordie House" was a rectangular building 18 ft square so built because the timber supplied was cut into 18ft lengths. Generally the early British bases followed this pattern of making do with what was available, rather than assembling purpose built structures. Subsequently an office, stores and a generator shed were added to the original building. A meteorology screen stands to the east of the hut and a flagpole to the west. To the southwest is a timber signboard with the painted impression of a crown and the words "British Crown Land", a relic of the pre-Antarctic Treaty age. The normal occupancy of the base was 4 to 5 people comprising meteorologists, radio operator and handyman. The normal tour of duty in the Antarctic for most personnel was 2.5 years.

The station is of historic importance as an example of an early British scientific research station.

The house has been preserved exactly as it was when the last scientist left and it vividly portrays the hardships endured by the scientists.

Wordie House

Wordie House Front Door (front door)

Wordie House Rear (back)

Wordie House Hall (hall)

Everyone seemed to live in the kitchen area where the aga type oven and the stove were, together with the library and some bunks.

Bunks and Shelves (kitchen)

Closeup Kitchen Shelf (Larder)

Kitchen (Larder)

Larder (Larder)

Dirty Kitchen Sink (Dirty sink)

Stove (Stove)

Toilet (Toilet)

Pots and Pans (Pots and pans)

Pat examining Library(Library)

Leaders Bunk Bead(bunk in office)



How hard life was there, is illustrated by an entry in the original journal for Sunday August 3rd 1958

1958 Logbook

which is open on the office desk

Outside Work Impossible

"outside work impossible owing to southerly gale averaging force 12/13 maximum gust 87kts. Dogs fed by John..........." These days, spending 2.5 years in these conditions seems impossible to imagine.

After dinner and before coffee, there was a quick lecture on Antarctic microclimates, lichen and moss plus also a short reflection on penguin breeding cycles, stone currency and how penguins recognise each other (by the sound of their voice, not their look).

Tonight (after a brief workshop on sharing photos for a communal CD) we are continuing our research into penguin behaviour by watching "Happy Feet" .

And then "Time for bed" said Zeberdee.










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