ST.PETERSBURG, December 16 (Itar-Tass) -- The southernmost stronghold of the Russian polar science – the polar station Vostok (East) in the Antarctic celebrates its 50th anniversary on the ice top of the sixth continent. The directorate of the Russian meteorological service, colleagues from the Artic and Antarctic Research Institute and relatives of polar explorers congratulated the staff of the polar station on their holiday.

Among five permanently operating Russian Antarctic stations the polar station Vostok is the only station situated on the plateau glacier in the East Antarctic at an altitude of 3,488 meters above the sea level, the deputy director of the Artic and Antarctic Research Institute and the chief of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, Valery Lukin told Itar-Tass.

He noted that “the participants of the sledding voyage during the second Comprehensive Antarctic Expedition headed by a legendary Polar explorer and the Hero of the Socialist Labor, Alexei Fyodorvich Treshnikov, set up the polar station Vostok.” “The polar station Vostok was deployed under the national program of the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) for the round-the-year meteorological and geophysical monitoring on the southern geomagnetic pole of the Earth,” Lukin said. Glaciologist Vyacheslav Averyanov was the first chief of the polar station Vostok, he added.

Polar explorers call the polar station “the harshest place on the sixth continent.” “Those who did not visit the polar station Vostok did not see the Antarctica,” they said jokingly.

Experienced polar explorers said, “No living creature, except for the man, can survive in intercontinental districts of the Antarctica.” The polar station Vostok is the cold pole of the Earth. “The average annual air temperature in this Antarctic district makes 55 degrees below zero. 89.2 degrees below zero that is the lowest temperature on the Earth was registered in July 1983. The round-the-clock polar night lasts about four months there. The normal atmospheric pressure amounts to 460 mb as that on the Elbrus top. The humidity is lower than in the Sahara Desert,” Lukin said.

Polar explorers discovered the subterranean lake and called it Vostok near the Russian polar station under the four-kilometer ice crust in the second half of the twentieth century. “The unique water body is considered one of the greatest geographical discoveries in the twentieth century. The lake remained isolated from the air for several million years,” Lukin pointed out. At present, Russian polar explorers are going to take environment-friendly water samples in the lake through the unique well.

For half a century the Vostok polar explorers “have conducted unique scientific experiments that made Russia one of the leading nations in the international Antarctic community,” the chief of the Russian Antarctic Expedition indicated. Lukin named among the priority experiments “the comprehensive monitoring of geomagnetic and ionospheric parameters that characterize the energy inflow of the solar wind on our planet.” He considers a not less significant experiment for the world science “the unique drilling of the ice crust in the East Antarctica in order to create palaeoclimatic reconstructions of the Earth.”

“Earlier crawlers went from the polar station Mirny and planes made inland flights to deliver necessary supplies for the polar station Vostok and substitute its staff,” Lukin said. An airplane BT-67 with the ski landing gear has been delivering the supplies for the polar station Vostok from the coastal polar station Progress already for several years. Since 2005 an airplane Il-76TD has been making flights from the ice airfield at the polar station Novolazarevskaya to parachute the cargoes for the polar station Vostok, Lukin noted.

PHOTO CREDIT: Todd Sowers LDEO, Columbia University, Palisades, New York/NOAA