Not everyone would reply to a job ad that meant working in year-round sub-zero temperatures, at an office that is far from home. However, this type of work is the bread-and-butter of Russian Antarctic scientists devoted to discovery.
Bellingshausen station is one of seven permanent Russian research stations in Antarctica, but it is not just the location that makes this base special. Life here is anything but ordinary.
“In Antarctica you have to have a well-developed instinct of self preservation, a sense of camaraderie. If you do not have that, you will not be able to help each other, because in critical situations here people are more open, more kind and are always helping each other,” said Bellingshausen station chief Viktor Vinogradov.
Each summer around 40 people call Bellingshausen “home” though only 16 people live there year round. Every day is run according to a strict schedule. “Business hours” are between eight in the morning and ten at night, when researchers work in their labs and the field, while the rest of the crew work around the clock keeping the place running.
“Every year is getting better and better – the daily life and everything else,” said another Bellingshausen crew member. “We renovate all of our buildings, the machinery is getting newer, and we help the new people in the team get used to it.”
Everyone living and working in Antarctica has to earn their keep somehow and whether you are a scientist, a researcher, a mechanic or even a journalist, you have to do chores. For example, from time to time the entire base gathers together to clean-up the beach.
Long hours, added responsibility and isolation from civilization certainly can take its toll on a person, so finding time to relax in Antarctica is just as important as the work.
In their free time, Bellingshausen station’s residents prefer to engage in a variety of recreational activities. For instance, marine biologist Vasily Pavarzhny likes to paint.
“I always have something to do,” he said. “I have my hobby here that I can always keep myself occupied with. I still have some unfinished pieces and I have set the goal for myself to finish them.”
As Bellingshausen is a true Russian station, life here would not be complete without a traditional banya. However, the Bellingshausen crew don’t just keep each other company. When there is a need for even more culture, there they reach out to other Antarctic stations as well.
“Actually the Russian Station Bellingshausen is the wrong place to get crazy, to go you know, mad by being lonely, by being an ‘Antarctic man’,” a Bellingshausen crew member told RT. “Here we have lots of different national and international activities with all of our Chinese, Chilean, Uruguayan friends, and Korean friends, all of them trying to be one big Antarctic family.”
And many people are working together in this family to make their “home” at the bottom of the planet seem more comfortable.