Well, are you surprised to know there exist a Bar in the Southern pole. I was very much when we were told on our fifth day into the cruise in Antarctica that we will be heading to land on a research station which holed the only watering hole located at 65 degrees 15” S on this frozen continent. Situated within the stark Vernadsky Research Base, this little station is a refuge to around 12 male Ukrainian researchers living there, along with passing tourist like us who pop in during the summer months of the White Continent.
Getting into a research base was exciting, but I realized the guys based there were far more excited to see us woman, as we were the first fairer sex they were seeing after months, as ours was the first cruise ship to stop by.This research base was originally owned by the UK founded in 1947 and called Faraday Station before it was purchased by the Ukrainians in 1966 for One Pound. Yes, you read that right, it was purchased exactly for Only One Pound. The coin Verdansky was purchased with ,still resides in the site’s most interesting location – in the lounge of the bar there. It is also here where the hole in the ozone layer was first discovered, after measurements were continuously monitored. As you enter you are welcomed by photographs of explorers line the walls along with a poster of Mr. Faraday himself. The 19th Century English scientist contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.
During the winter months, temperatures can plummet well below 60 degrees Celsius. It’s a tough experience living in these conditions, but the men do several months on the base at a time. These guys are always happy to welcome people and show them around. The Base also has a small gift shop, post office, gym, kitchenette and medical room. It has various research stations rooms, with bizarre pieces of equipment lining the shelves. On one wall was a framed box- containing a small bottle of Jagermeister ,condom and a cigarette- hangs with a notice stating ‘break in case of emergency .
Let’s get back talking about the bar there. You can get a drink over there for 3 dollars with pineapple and cheese trayed up on the side. What intrigued me more was that behind the bar, dozens of colorful bras dangled from their straps. So that was like a surprise as this base had only men, so what were these thingies doing here . That’s when I learned on asking ,that the female travelers are rewarded with 3 vodka shots if they trade for their bra, which are on display for all to see.One expedition staff also mentioned there was once a female patron who literally undressed in front of the bartender. The bra she handed over – a lacy Victoria’s Secret Number – set pulses racing among the staff members, who don’t see woman for months together there.
I can well imagine the situation there. I moved on to the post office from there, where I learned that one can post a card to anyone from here. So I quickly grapped one to send my daughter from there with a little message to inspire her to travel and explore the world. For 2$ you can purchase the card, and for an extra 5$ you purchase a stamp . I was told the card will take couple of months to reach and it did so exactly. My daughter was thrilled to receive the same well months after I landed back to India.Before exiting the place, I also grabbed in some souvenirs from the shop which is hand made by these guys mostly. I also sat by photographing loads of penguins who had laid their eggs behind the station and was nesting over them.It’s a rare privilege to visit an active research station, and having the opportunity to explore one in a place as remote as Antarctica made the experience all the more rewarding.
Even thou I did not leave my bra, Vernadsky Research Base left a mark on me.