Стація Вернадський (Vernadsky Station)
February 19th, 2017
After successfully delivering cargo and scientists to Palmer Station, we set off southward heading for Vernadsky, a Ukrainian research station. We had sailed from Punta Arenas, Chile with a Ukrainian scientist who was to be reunited with his team when we visited the station to dismantle a US operated GPS station nearby the base.
Upon arrival to the Argentine Islands, we left the Laurence M. Gould by zodiac to travel to the station. We were very warmly greeted by Vernadsky scientists who were eager to show us their facilities and discuss polar science. It was a great opportunity to learn about other science being conducted around the peninsula and a reminder that Antarctic science is an international endeavor; Antarctica has no borders.
Vernadsky station was first established in 1947 by the United Kingdom (named Faraday station in 1977) and was not transferred to the Ukraine to become Vernadsky station until 1996. The station houses only 12 scientists who remain there for an amazing 6-12 months at a time. Each scientist plays a different role on station from measuring ozone concentrations to making observations in meteorology, seismology, and biology. This station is one of the oldest stations in the Antarctic and the location of the longest air temperature and ozone measurements made in Antarctica (excluding those determined by ice cores). The ozone measurements made at Vernadsky led to the discovery of depleted ozone levels in the atmosphere overlying Antarctica, later deemed the world famous ‘ozone hole’.
Ozone (O3) is a compound created in the atmosphere from the interaction of oxygen and UV light from the sun. In our atmosphere, ozone acts to shield us from the harmful effects of UV light, though it is toxic to life at higher concentrations including damage to our skin or even our DNA. For example, the Ukrainian scientists shared with us that when they first started observing depleted ozone values at Vernadsky, they had first noticed how quickly one would become severely sunburned if outside for even an hour in the bright sun. Ozone has declined over Antarctica since the 1970s from the destruction of ozone in the atmosphere by human-released compounds such as refrigerants (e.g. CFCs, Freon). The depleted values observed overlying the Antarctic continent is generally referred to as the ozone hole. This phenomenon, however, appears seasonally in Antarctica because the Antarctic continent has little to no sunlight during the winter, so the greatest depletion of ozone occurs during the spring when there is the greatest amount of interaction between the atmosphere and the sun. Today, the ozone hole seems to be undergoing smaller fluctuations and “healing” since the adoption of the Montreal Protocol banning the use of certain refrigerant chemicals globally. Scientists at Vernadsky continue to monitor ozone daily, producing the longest time-series of ozone measurements in Antarctica. We were all quite excited to be shown the instrument (a spectrophotometer) and meet the scientists behind this world-renowned dataset.
Once our work nearby the station was completed, we said goodbye to the Ukrainian scientists and headed back to the Gould. Our transit south to Marguerite Bay will take at least 1 day, depending on ice conditions. Other scientists onboard interested in long term sediment records from the seafloor will be collecting box cores at sites in Marguerite Bay over the next few days.