Keeping the company with such venerable polar explorers as Valeriy Vladimirovich Lukin, the chief of Russian Antarctic expedition and Valeriy Nikolaevich Masolov, one of the leading Russia and abroad specialists in the Antarctic geology, was the best present for me. Listening to their wonderful stories mixed up with humor and at the same time with tragedies - breaking of lives, and formation of characters - is unforgettable, remarkable time of my life. You absorb everything like a sponge and envy them sadly and kindly because of their extraordinary, full of sense and romanticism life. Though they don't differ from us in everyday life, the same problems press them, as us do. But there are things worth mentioning and remembering when sitting among REAL friends by the kitchen table. And how I wish their work and lives were important to somebody but their relatives and friends.
Many things were comprehended and described after that trip to the Antarctic to the station «Vostock». Now I shall quote the article, which was stated then the best article of the week.
So newspaper «Veck» ¹9 (324) dd 5th of March 1999 page 12
"Loss of the Antarctic is equal to loss of 1000 Alaska.
Oleg PRODAN about the plans of the most unique expedition at the joint of centuries.
Natural resources of the Antarctic can be compared to the sum of all world natural reserves - this continent is often called the last reserve of humanity. Will our country find itself in the list of real claimants to riches, most of which should be discovered in future? According to specialists the loss of this continent by Russia is equal to the loss of 1000 Alaska.
Antarctida is a continent in the center of the Antarctic. The overall area (together with shelf ices and islands) - 1582 square kilometers. The average height above sea level - 2040 meters. More than 99% of the territory is covered with ice. Among economic minerals - deposits of coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, diamonds, lead and many other.
COLD SUN OF THE WHITE DESERT
There is a distance of nearly sixteen thousand kilometers between Moscow and the Antarctic research station "Vostock". Here in the very heart of the South Pole in rare days the temperature goes higher than 25 degrees below zero. Usually it is about is -40ºC. And in 1983 the absolute world minimum has been registered here 89 degrees below zero.
Silence and absolute biological vacuum... When together with equipment by accident there were brought cockroaches, polar explorers were beside themselves with joy - somebody else alive began living there. But even cockroaches were not able to reconcile themselves to local conditions and soon died out. And people continue to live there. Now at the station 12 persons are spending the winter - the chief Vladimir Kuchin, radio operator Mikhail Gandriev, meteorologist Nikolay Fandeev, 2 doctors Sergey Saprunov and Oleg Mukhin and also magnetologists, engineers, driver and cook. At their disposal there are diesel electro station, saloon with billiard table, dining room, food storehouse, communication centre. Also there is a derrick, but it is not working now. Since the deepest boring well reached the mark 3600 meters, all the works have been stopped. One is not allowed to bore deeper - 100 meters deeper -and... there will be that famous lake, with regard to which there is so much scientific fuss. This unique in all sides water body is about 1 million years old and there is a great possibility of life existence in it. How one can ascertain this fact - nobody has invented yet, because a drill should get into water sterilized and this can nobody fulfill yet.
The station «Vostock» - one of the most distant from coast. In comparison with American Mack-Merdo, situated nearly at coast, there is neither hotel nor bar nor Internet. Eight months a year nobody can reach "Vostock" by any kind of transport and even in all other months the problem of communication remains acute. Russia, where 70% of territory covers with snow, doesn't has at its disposal a single (!) airplane with ski undercarriage, not mentioning skis-and-wheel variant. May be this is a reason of disappearance of northern delivery which «doesn't swim to this place, fly as far as it is and crawl so far» for those, who needs it so much? Not long ago our airplanes equipped with skis spend thousands of hors in flights over the Arctic and the Antarctic and the projects "Better than Mack-Merdo" have been created... And what's now?
NOT BY SKIS THEN BY PARACHUTES
We have left behind not a single expedition to the North Pole and the regions of the Far North. "Parachute jumps are certainly not for pleasure, - tells the director of the company Oleg Prodan, - the main is quite in another. We revive unique ways of urgent delivery of cargoes to the districts inaccessible for traditional transport. We draw to work the unclaimed today most experienced specialists, which some 10 years ago have successfully worked in northern latitudes. After returning from expedition "The North Pole-98" which was stated by foreign participants the most interesting and best organized of all similar actions, we received an offer to organize unique expedition with landing at the South Pole. It is to take place at the eve of 2000. I remind you that the last attempt to land in the Antarctic with parachutes which was undertaken in 1997 by foreign group, ended in tragedy.
Any tragedy leads to all possible prohibitions and slogans - «not allow to go at all cost», moreover when we speak about extreme conditions of the Antarctic. And it is very important for us, that they put confidence in us and considered that our professionals will cope with this work. To say honestly, we had to convince for a long time the representatives of Antarctic community that one can't stop people obsessed by idea fix with prohibitions and that we really are able to do everything properly, taking into account our large experience of arctic work. We have our own percept. Simply jumping with parachutes to the South Pole is just a game, in the Antarctic we should fulfill really essential for Russia task - to deliver cargo to "Vostock" station and at the same time to demonstrate the work of native aviation and parachute technologies which have been brilliantly worked out by our air troops».
Lately Oleg returned from expedition to the Antarctic, where he had got acquainted with people living on the "Vostock" station and had seen with his eyes the region, where his guys will have to land in a year. Ha got impressions more than enough. The life conditions on this unique station are very like in cosmos according to famous Senkevich, and Oleg is completely agreed with him. When you take small as grape tomatoes grown on a windowsill as an event of a year, and 50 degrees frost becomes a dull everyday occurrence, then your attitude to the civilization changes. Though right owing to it the Antarctic opens its secrets. Yet only small part of them. In order «to tame» this discovered by Russians in 1820 continent, one will have to spare much time and still much more money, which Russia doesn't possess today.
WHY TO BURY MONEY INTO SNOW
In April, that is nearly in a month, we shall again go to the North Pole - to perfect technologies, which will be used in the Antarctic expedition. Several secure variants of participants' evacuation have been worked out, main executors of aviation work have been chosen. Within the framework of expedition have already appeared and are developing the whole national programs, supported by the first officials of leading world powers. Russians are hoping very much that our country too in spite of all problems, will pay proper attention to this project and will render all necessary support.
On the eve of third thousand all the countries of the Antarctic community are trying to redouble their presence on the continent, the area of which exceed the are of the USA and the area of Russia. Anticipating the completion of moratorium for mining of economic minerals in the Antarctic, USA annually allocate 242 million dollars for the Antarctic researches, Italy - 51, Australia - 49, Japan - 23 million. And Russia - the sum, which after the crises is equal to .. 4 million dollars. And it is a country, which has been working on the continent since 1957 (USA since 1956). Everything that we managed to do was not easy for us and took often heroic work. If we give up all achievements (and we have already started to do it) we shall cross out the work of not a single generation. And if to speak without beautiful words - we just give up our very profitable place to "powerful states" at which they in comparison with us are actively sharpening their teeth.
Economic consequences of Russia's leaving the Antarctic may turn to be catastrophic. We lose both financial and political results of all latest investments into continent research.
* * *
Russia polar explorers from "Vostock" station are looking forward to meeting our expedition. It will be not just a New Year present for them. Our successful landing will make an event, importance of which can't be overestimated even in the boldest forecasts. When there are no money, experience and unique professional skills become currency."
The material is prepared by Natalya Samorukova