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  • Verdansky: Where the Ozone Hole Was Discovered

    The Antarctic ozone hole was discovered in 1985 by British scientists Joesph Farman, Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey. I recently had the opportunity to visit the scientific station where the discovery took place. As you can see in the photo, the station proudly advertises its discovery with a sign in the main hallway.

    Verdansky base (also known as Faraday)—now owned by the Ukranian government—has a long history. It has been populated for the past 63 years (to the day—starting in 07 Jan 1947). The British occupied the station until 1996 when it was sold for a nominal fee to the Ukranians. The spot is particularly good for observing the ionosphere and performing meteorlogical and geophysical studies because it is located at a high geographic latitude and a low magnetic latitude.

    The Ukranians are not restricting their activities to research. They make vodka, have a gift shop, and run a post office. You'll hear more about their vodka bar in a future post.

  • Verdansky: The Southernmost Bar (and Bra?)

    That's not a misspelling. The bar and bra have a connection. Read on and you'll find out.

     The Verdansky Antarctic scientific station has a few side businesses that open only when tourist ships visit the area—a Post Office, a souvenir shop, and the Faraday Bar. They claim the souvenir shop and bar are the most southern. I'm not sure I believe them. It seems McMurdo must have some enterprising scientists there as well.

    If you mail a postcard, keep in mind that your mail first goes to the Ukraine before going to its intended destination. I chose not to use their P.O. and instead waited to mail letters from Port Lockroy, the British station. Port Lockroy sends their mail to England first, which is much closer to any of the destinations that I addressed my mail to.

    The souvenir shop is the most high-priced on the Antarctic peninsula. There are two other souvenir shops—one run by the Polish and the other by the British. Verdansky was our first stop at a scientific station, so I didn't have that bit of knowledge at the time, but now I can pass it on to you! The prices are from 50 to 100 percent over similar things in the states. Someone pointed out to me that the markup was likely due to transportation costs. Before I disembarked to take a Zodiac to the station, I noticed a few boxes near the gangway on our ship that were labeled "souvenirs." I suspect that our ship delivered the packages to the Ukrainians so they could have us buy them and bring them back to the ship! If so, doesn't that warrant a discount? Avoid the Ukranian shop. The British shop is best, so hold out for Port Lockroy and much less expensive. 

    The Ukrainians make their own vodka and sell shots at Faraday Bar. We arrived at Verdansky at 9:00 AM—a little early in the day for drinking vodka. But in a place where the sun never sets, the exact time matters less and less as one bright day slips into the next. (The Ukrainian scientists drink only once a week, I'm told. The bar is closed until a ship shows up.)

    You have two options for paying for a shot.  Either you leave a bra at the bar or you pay $2. I saw two bras hanging there. Notice the red one in the photo, just to the right of the younger man's shoulder. The other bra (not in the photo) was left by a senior woman on a previous Polar Star cruise. Judging by the fact the bra was hung in the window as a sort of curtain, I'd have to conclude that it was a rather large woman who left the bra.

    Leave a bra or pay $2? I didn't think this one over too long. It was an easy choice. Pay the $2. My bras are worth at least $20 each. I would expect that one of them would be worth enough to buy a round for my best buddies on the ship.  I paid the $2 and tossed the vodka. I made the right choice. It was tasty vodka, but certainly not worth $20 a shot. At $2, however, it is the best deal on the base. If you go, drink up!

    (Verdanksy is where the ozone hole was discovered.)