What is it - spend the winter at the polar "Vostok" station

What is it - spend the winter at the polar

Sergey Bushmanov

Geophysicist, a member of the Russian Antarctic Expedition to the station "Vostok" of 2009-2011, 34 years old:

"At the station" Vostok "man does not live - he is slowly dying. Station known three main properties: it is on the geomagnetic South Pole, on the cold pole (in 1983 the temperature fell to -89, 2 ° C), and under ice dome, which is the station, is old East Lake.

Usually people lose up to 5-10 kilograms of weight for the first month in the "East". Oxygen in the air as much as at the height of 5 kilometers in the middle latitudes. Therefore, the first problem on arrival - reaction. I saw the man became ill a few minutes after arrival. If it were not evacuated in time, the pulmonary edema after a few days would lead to death from hypoxia. I felt good, but fast walking and lifting weights should be very careful: once there is shortness of breath, and dark eyes. Sharply rising from a chair, you can simply fall from dizziness. In addition, very tired because of the apnea - stopping breathing during sleep. In order to adapt to the conditions of continental Antarctica and start to sleep well, it is necessary from a month to three.

In ordinary life around us almost always have some insects - mosquitoes, moths, midges. On the "East" nothing. Even microorganisms. But with me sometimes happened hallucinations seemed close flew a fly or a bee. Water the plant - from the surrounding snow. It has no salts and minerals, so the first time does not pass a constant feeling of thirst. As is known, scientists have long well is being drilled to Lake Vostok. In January 2011, at a depth of 3540 meters start another ice of the frozen below - freezing water lake. It is clean and not bad taste - can safely be boiled and brewed tea. No unknown life forms, about which some scientists warn, that I did not see the tea. Aircraft on the "East" fly only from mid-December to early February - at other times it is impossible, they simply can not land, runners froze to ice. Motopohod sometimes comes with the station with fuel, "Peace." At other times, there is no technique to get there is not capable. If something were to happen, no one to help.

Residential building station fully noticed and is under two meters of snow. Daylight inside does not happen. A outward can exit through two outputs - main and reserve. The main output - is the door, behind which the snow dug a 50-meter tunnel. Emergency exit is short and steep ladder on the surface of the snow cover on the station building. During the winter, my work took daily access to the open air - it was necessary to rise to the surface through the emergency exit and walk about 400 meters to a small house that housed the main instruments and sensors. Whenever you put on first outer clothing - down jacket, warm trousers, woolen gloves, fur mittens, boots, mask on the face. It was necessary to fasten it all thoroughly, refuel and then hang the lights, backpack with a thermos, tools and a laptop. Sometimes it was necessary to make such an expedition to several times a day. But those days have passed and faster.

Once the head of the station announced at the general meeting, that we are moving in the fuel economy mode. The temperature inside the premises to + 15 ° C. fell to + 10 ° C. Interestingly, this fuel economy was no use to anybody - after the end of the winter we've got a spare 10 tons of diesel fuel for generators. But vyholozheny appeared as a result of the station premises. In canteen formed half-meter stalactites of ice. In the dishwasher, which really saves electricity, water, energy and time, torn by ice all inner hoses. In the room where I lived and where there was scientific equipment for the two coldest months - in July and August - it was about + 5 ° C. In these months, the main leisure time was limited to physical education. I hung in the room bar, got hold of the likeness of the bar, set the bike - and warmed.

The residential building has a saloon, where there is a pool table and a wall-mounted TV (although no-air television). After the temperature dropped to minus there, long time no one to meddle. But once the stock has detected a fault game console. We repaired it, connect to the TV, and in the mess people have started to appear again - dressed in warm jackets and pants, hats and boots, they were going to play in the race, and fistfights.

As in any other group, especially small - but we were on the station 13 people - there were conflicts. First there were some minor affair. Some grew into a serious argument for months. Formed "circles", there was talk that Ivanov did Petrov and Petrov - a stupid coward - behaved not like a man, and did not hit Ivanova. Then the conversation distorted reached Petrov, he decided not to be more than a coward and a second time beat Ivanov.

Another type of conflict comes from the fact that the head of the station allocates approximate and supplied them with alcohol and prodovolst viem above normal. The most unpleasant - fights, insults - began with alcohol. Vodka legally imported to the station and in decent quantities. During my winter was imported 200-something bottle of 0, 75 liters. Sometimes heavy drinking did not stop for a week, and they participated in about a third of the composition of the winter. All alcohol was consumed in less than six months before the end of May. The remainder of the diluted alcohol and service authorization of the station-driven brew - yeast and sugar with the addition of pea. At the time of the winter, I volunteered to be a volunteer in the monthly hikes on snow polygon five kilometers north of the station. There, together with a partner we have a monthly accumulation of snow was measured in a specially driven into for this veshek. Until the polar night, everything was normal. But it is interesting, incidentally, that at -58 ° C to the normal sound of the exhaled air is mixed not strong hiss. If you talk at this temperature, many consonants are hissing - for example, instead of "whistle" turns "shvisht". The effect is due to the fact that the exhaled carbon dioxide at such a low temperature begins to crystallize.

In July, the temperature dropped to record low for the year: -82 ° C. This frost - it is a beast. Do you have time for a couple of minutes to cool down from the heat of the dwelling, and then the frost bites in the face, knees, in the fingers and toes, biting into the flesh until the bone marrow. Do not save even the constant movement and the most warm clothes. Death at this temperature, even if you move all the time, comes in 6-8 hours. Without a protective mask - special stocking with holes for the eyes - it is impossible to breathe, as instantly turn white and freezes in the nose and lips. Through the mask is also not very successful - the breath on it is formed a crust of ice consisting of frozen carbon dioxide and water vapor, which through breathing very difficult. The most convenient way: a mask is worn, so that from the nose and below it is not adjacent to the face. Air enters the bottom of the hole, a little warm inside the mask, and then into the lungs. As shown, the optimal footwear for temperature -82 ° C - normal boots. Better to boots outsole was additionally hemmed with another layer of felt. Plus, I put them in fur socks chuni. And another interesting thing: in extreme cold manifested smell, which saturates all of continental Antarctica. The smell of this barely catch and usually it does not pay attention - he is so weak and inconspicuous. But then, at -82 ° C, I felt it. For a while, trying to find a comparison, then surrendered. And then, when there were heavy cold, I suddenly realized that it was for the smell. I would call it "vanilla caramel."