Royal Navy shows solidarity with Ukraine at Antarctic research base

The Navy’s sole icebreaker HMS Protector dropped in on 21 scientists who maintain the polar research station of Vernadsky in Antarctica to check on their welfare.

Royal Navy shows solidarity with Ukraine at Antarctic research base

They found the team who run the base – ­some 9,000 miles from their motherland – had families trapped in their homeland as a result of the war.

The landing party from Protector – Captain Michael Wood and ship’s doctor, Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Alex Clarke, along with sailors and Royal Marines ­– delivered fresh food to the scientists, ensured they were in good health, and reassured them of the UK’s support for their nation’s cause.

Captain Wood said:

“During time spent ashore, the team confirmed the welfare of the 21 scientists who had spent the winter at Vernadsky.”

“Welcome supplies of fresh food were passed to the station leader. Many of the station staff reported families stranded under attacks in Kharkiv and Kyiv.”

The Ukrainian research base is located on Galindez Island off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

It was originally established as the British Antarctic Survey’s Faraday Station, but was transferred to Ukraine under a Memorandum of Understanding between the British Antarctic Survey and the State Institution National Antarctic Scientific Centre of Ukraine in early 1996.

The Ukrainian scientists conduct research of the Earth’s magnetic field, radio sounding of the ionosphere in the Southern Polar region, hydro-meteorological research, geophysical research of the lithosphere – the Earth’s crust and upper part of the mantle – and studies the ecology of the western Antarctic biosphere as well as looking into the medical effects of living and working in such an extreme environment.

Although the base operates all year round, its remote location means it is re-supplied infrequently and with few staff vaccinated, it has operated under strict Covid-prevention protocols, eschewing visits.