Soyuz Station is an abandoned Russian station located at 70Â°34’52"S, 68Â°47’08"E. Situated a couple of hundred kilometres from the Antarctic coastline and at an elevation of some 300 metres, Soyuz sits on the very edge of the known world.
The first time I visited the station I felt as if I had come across the loneliest outpost in the world. Situated on a small rise, the station consists of a series wooden huts, side by side; one large kitchen and mess and a communications shack many hundreds of metres away from the other buildings. The reason is fire: if every other building was to burn down, then at least the Russians could still communicate with the outside world.
When you think of the environment – the wind that blows around the clock; winter temperatures that regularly sink to minus 30 and minus 40 degrees centigrade, it is hard to believe how basic the station is. Wooden doors that fit door frames so badly, spin drift leaks in; a kitchen with a single sink; no building insulation of any kind; a place to wash is a couple of bowls and benches next to the main electricity generator (presumbly because it is so warm).
When I walked into the mess, there was a plate of cookies, a teapot with tea leaves still in it and loaves of bread stacked on a shelf. Everything was perfectly preserved due to the dry and cold environment. The kitchen sink still had a washing bowl full of water – just that is was solid ice. Flour was still spread over a bench. As for the rooms, everything was still there – books; magazines; beds made up with layer upon layer of woollen blankets; pictures on the walls; glasses and empty vodka bottles on the tables. It was as if everyone just walked out one day, never to return.
The thing I remember most about Soyuz was how different absolutely everything was to the program I was on. Here I was on a million dollar plus project with more logistical support than you could poke a stick at, and here was Soyuz, where the Russians had the most basic and rudimentary of everything. I know there are people on LS who have visited countries with these sort of outposts; where you stumble across outposts that are so different to what you know, yet are so normal to the people of that culture. Soyuz is such a place, except it is in Antarctica.
You can’t just leave – there is no where to walk to; you can’t escape the wind and blowing snow or the hand numbing temperatures. The men that wintered (!) here, often staying for over a year at a time were of a different breed.
You can see a gallery of 20 images of my short time at the station at my photo archive at this link: Antarctica: Soyuz Station
I hope you have a look – it is a place few people ever visit and more importantly, a place few people even know about
2006-07-11 04:33:12 UTC
Mar 12 2008