45th birthday of Russia's Antarctic station Vostok

Northwest correspondent Tatiana Yakovleva/--December 16 is the 45th birthday of Russia's Vostok research station in Antarctica.

Vostok was opened on December 16, 1957, as part of a program called the International Geophysical Year. The first head of the station was Vyacheslav Averyanov. The task facing the scientists that worked there was to make geophysical and meteorological observations, study medical and biological problems, and conduct glaciological research, i.e. ice studies. Their work was even more important since the station stood on the geomagnetic pole as well as on the planet's cold pole. The air temperature registered here - 89.2 degrees Celsius - was the lowest temperature ever registered on the planet.

Since 1995, the station has been focusing much of its attention on a subglacial lake that was discovered right underneath it. It was established that the unique lake lies beneath a mass of ice 3,750 meters thick, 252 meters below sea level. Russian and foreign scientists have pinpointed the lake's borders and calculated its depth and the thickness of bottom sediment.

Vostok was the Soviet Union's second big Antarctic station and the first station to have been opened in the depths of the continent. Two years earlier, in 1955, the USSR had opened its first station, Mirny, but that one was located on the Antarctic coast. The names of the stations, Mirny and Vostok, were taken from two sloops on which Russian explorers Bellinshausen and Lazarev sailed around the world in 1819-1821, discovering the sixth continent during their journey.

Today, Vostok is one of Russia's permanently working Antarctic stations, the rest of them being Mirny, Novolazarevskaya, Bellinshausen, and Progress.

The station went down in history of Antarctica for the heroic winter scientists spent here in 1982. When, on the night of April 13, the diesel-electric station that heated up the station caught fire and burnt down, 20 explorers were left in inhuman conditions but managed to conquer the frost. Only six months later, with the beginning of the Antarctic spring, they met a caterpillar sleigh that brought food and a new electric station.