Vernadsky Research Station, Galindez Island
Vernadsky is an "all year round station", meaning a research station running 12 months a year and not just the summer months like most of the stations here in Antarctica.
Until 1998 the base was called Faraday and was English, then it was sold to the Ukrainians for a pound. Right here, in 1983, British scientists identified the ozone layer. The base has a staff of 12 researchers who become 18 during the summer months. In the winter period (April / October) the base must necessarily be self-sufficient because it is inaccessible for any boat that is not an icebreaker.
The day promised to be beautiful: sun, sky clear of clouds and little wind. I contacted the base in the early morning to extend my greetings and ask permission to visit it. They replied that they were waiting for a cruise ship to visit and they would welcome us around 21:00h. But at the same time they asked me if we wanted to visit the 'Wordie Hut' an English base built on Winter Island just 50 meters from our anchorage. The Ukrainians keep the keys and look after the base.
We were very enthusiastic about the offer and a few minutes later, the base Commander came to greet us and give us the key of the hut. Wordy Hut is another of the buildings identified as monuments from the Antarctic Treaty, which the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust has renovated. Like the Vernadsky base it is in a truly breathtaking setting, with the peaks of the Lemarie Channel still visible and immersed in the sea of ice that leads to Crystal Sound. The base, very well restored, still retains the testimony of the presence of the old explorers who, like Shackleton, went so far with the means that technology offered them in these days: simply heroes. Built in 1947 and baptized in honor of the Chief Researcher of the Shackleton Expedition, it was occupied until 1954 when the British built the nearby Faraday base (now Vernadsky). It hosted on average 4 or 5 researchers and the activity was mainly directed to meteorology.
We spent the rest of the day climbing on the mountains of ice arounf us, visiting several communities of penguins and simply enjoying these white paradise.
After dinner we went to Vernadsky where the Ukranians offerd to show us the a Base. After the visit they invited to the Pub where an excellent hamon serrano and a good Argentine wine was waiting for us. In the Pub we met MIREILLE, a nice French unexpected guest of the Base.
MIreille was on board the French boat whose Skipper visited us last night on our arrival. It seems that MIreille decided to disembark because she did not feel safe on that boat, despite the contrary opinion of the skipper who at all costs wanted to bring her back to Ushuaia. The doctor at the base somehow found a solution, telling the Skipper that MIreille needed a rest period and could not get back at sea.
The problem for the Ukrainians was how to allow MIreille to return to the civilized world. At this point the Commander of the Base asks me if I consent to give a passage to MIreille up to Port Lockroy where a large cruise ship seems to have agreed to take MIreille back to Ushuaia. Obviously I said that there would be problems for us.
Weather forecasts for tomorrow foresee light winds till 12:00h and afterword up to 25 knots till evening. The idea of sailing the Butler Passage back with 40 knots upwind does not even pass through my head, so i decide for an early start at 04:00h so as to be in Port Lockroy for lunch, well before the wind goes crazy.
Big hugs with the Ukrainians for having solved the problem and above all another 200 liters of diesel in our tanks gently presented by the commander of the base Yes, because when I agreed to take with us MIreille, the base Commander asked me what he could do to return the courtesy and I, shamelessly, asked him to offer us 100 liters of diesel for our generator and heater. So we took on board with us 8 elegant plastic jerrycans of 25 liters each full of diesel.
Long life to the Ukrainian, long life to Antarctica and long life to all those places in the world where the words hospitality, generosity and altruism still have meanings.