In 1956, the Soviet Union despatched the 2nd Soviet Antarctic Expedition to the most remote and coldest area of the Antarctic, where temperatures are known to drop to as low as −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; or 184.0 K) – this is the ‘naturally’ coldest place on earth – permanent frosts and wind-speeds of around 100 mph. The Soviets established the ‘Vostok’ Research Station (led by VS Sidorov) on December 16th, 1957, situated around 1,300 km (800 mi) from the Geographic South Pole, at the centre of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (which lays within Australian Antarctic Territory). However, as a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty System, Australia does not exercise sovereignty over this territory. The name ‘Vostok’ simply means ‘East’ in the Russian language, and refers to the name of the Russian ‘sloop’ vessel that lead the 1st Russian (i.e. Czarist’) Expedition to the Antarctic (1819-1821). The Soviet intention was to further science through ice-drilling, and magnetometry – which is the scientific measuring and mapping of patterns of magnetism in the soil. Ancient activity, (particularly burning), leaves magnetic traces that can be detected today, with the right equipment. Other studies included actinometry, geophysics, medicine and climatology.
The expedition took a statue of Lenin that was placed outside on a raised platform – representing the principle of Communist Revolution and the development and practice of Proletariat Science. This research station has been occupied more or less continuously by the Russian scientific establishment, and despite the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Lenin has been left to look-out over the vast, snowy expanse, as if still claiming the area for Soviet Science.
Russian Video: Station “Vostok”. On the threshold of life. Documentary
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