Vostok Station

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Vostok Station
Stántsiya Vostók
Research Station
Lake Vostok composite image (NASA)
Lake Vostok composite image (NASA)
Vostok Station is located in Antarctica
Vostok Station
Vostok Station
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Country  Russia
 • Type Polar Research Organisation
 • Body Russian Antarctic Programme
Elevation 3,488 m (11,444 ft)
Time zone AQ (UTC+06:00)
Russian station Vostok.jpg

Vostok Station (Russian: Станция Восток, Stántsiya Vostók, lit. "Station East") is a Russian (formerly Soviet) research station in inland Princess Elizabeth Land, Antarctica. Founded by the Soviet Union in 1957, the station lies at the southern Pole of Cold, with the lowest reliably measured natural temperature on Earth of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K).[1] Research includes ice core drilling and magnetometry. Vostok (Russian for "east") was named after Vostok, the lead ship of the First Russian Antarctic Expedition captained by Fabian von Bellingshausen (the second ship Mirny captained by Mikhail Lazarev became the namesake for Mirny Station).


Vostok Research Station is about 1,300 km (≈800 mi) from the Geographic South Pole, at the center of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and within the Australian Antarctic Territory. As a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty System, Australia does not exercise sovereignty over the territory.

Vostok is located near the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility and the South Geomagnetic Pole, making it one of the optimal places to observe changes in the Earth's magnetosphere. Other studies include actinometry, geophysics, medicine and climatology.

The station is at 3,488 metres (11,444 ft) above sea level and is one of the most isolated established research stations on the Antarctic continent.[2] The station was supplied from Mirny Station on the Antarctic coast.[3] The station typically contains 25 scientists and engineers in the summer. In winter, their number drops to 13.[4]

The only permanent research station located farther south is the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, operated by the United States at the geographic South Pole.

Some of the challenges faced by those living on the station were described in Vladimir Sanin's books such as Newbie in the Antarctic (1973), 72 Degrees Below Zero (1975), and others.


Ice cores drilled at Vostok, with a portion of the station behind

Vostok Station was established on 16 December 1957 (during the International Geophysical Year) by the 2nd Soviet Antarctic Expedition and was operated year-round for more than 37 years.[5] The station was temporarily closed from February to November 1994.[5]

In 1974, when British scientists in Antarctica performed an airborne ice-penetrating radar survey and detected strange radar readings at the site, the presence of a liquid, freshwater lake below the ice did not instantly spring to mind.[6] In 1991, Jeff Ridley, a remote-sensing specialist with the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London, directed a European satellite called ERS-1 to turn its high-frequency array toward the center of the Antarctic ice cap. It confirmed the 1974 discovery,[7] but it was not until 1993 that the discovery was published in the Journal of Glaciology. Space-based radar revealed that the sub-glacial body of fresh water was one of the largest lakes in the world – and one of some 140 subglacial lakes in Antarctica. Russian and British scientists delineated the lake in 1996 by integrating a variety of data, including airborne ice-penetrating radar imaging observations and spaceborne radar altimetry. Lake Vostok lies some 4,000 meters (13,000 ft) below the surface of the central Antarctic ice sheet and covers an area of 14,000 km² (5,400 sq mi).[8]

Historic monuments

Vostok Station Tractor: Heavy tractor АТТ 11 which participated in the first traverse to the South Geomagnetic Pole, along with a plaque to commemorate the opening of the station in 1957, has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 11) following a proposal by Russia to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[9]

Professor Kudryashov’s Drilling Complex Building: The drilling complex building stands close to Vostok Station at an elevation of 3488 m. It was constructed in the summer season of 1983–1984. Under the leadership of Professor Boris Kudryashov, ancient ice core samples were obtained. The building has been designated a Historic Site or Monument (HSM 88), following a proposal by Russia to the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.[10]


Vostok Station has an ice cap climate (EF), with subzero cold year round. The station sees an average of only 22 millimeters of precipitation per year (precipitation is very hard to measure; total snow accumulation is easier[11]). On average, Vostok station receives 26 days of snow per year.[11] It is by far the coldest spot on earth, with the lowest recorded temperature being −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F). The average summer temperature is −31.9 °C (−25.4 °F). Meanwhile, the average winter temperature is −68 °C (−90 °F), and the highest recorded temperature was −14.0 °C (6.8 °F). Vostok has the highest sunshine total for any calendar month, at an average of 708.8 hours of sunshine in December, or 23 hours daily. It also has the lowest sunshine for any calendar month, with a theoretical maximum of 0 hours of sunshine per month during polar night.[12]

Climate data for Vostok Station
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) −14.0
Average high °C (°F) −27.0
Daily mean °C (°F) −32.0
Average low °C (°F) −37.5
Record low °C (°F) −56.4
Average precipitation mm (inches) 1.0
Average relative humidity (%) 70.1 68.6 66.2 64.7 64.7 65.5 65.7 65.8 66.2 67.4 68.7 69.8 66.95
Mean monthly sunshine hours 696.4 566.8 347.3 76.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 203.4 480.2 682.3 708.8 3,761.5
Source #1: [13]
Source #2: Pogoda.ru.net (records only except for August record low),[14] (August record low)[15]
Panoramic photo of Vostok Station showing the layout of the camp. The striped building on the left is the power station while the striped building on the right is where researchers sleep and take meals. The building in the background with the red- and white-striped ball on top is the meteorology building. Caves were dug into the ice sheet for storage, keeping cores at an ideal −55 °C (−67 °F) year-round. (Credit: Todd Sowers LDEO, Columbia University, Palisades, New York.)

Vostok is the coldest place on Earth. The average temperature of the cold season (from April to October) is about −65 °C (−85 °F), while the average temperature of the warm season (from November to March) is about −42 °C (−44 °F).[2]

The lowest reliably measured temperature on Earth of −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) was in Vostok on 21 July 1983 at 05:45 Moscow Time,[16][17] which was 07:45 for Vostok's time zone, and 01:45 UTC (See List of weather records). This beat the station's former record of −88.3 °C (−126.9 °F) on 24 August 1960.[15] In comparison, carbon dioxide freezes out of the air at −84 °C (−119.2 °F) at typical local atmospheric pressures based on altitude. Lower temperatures occurred higher up towards the summit of the ice sheet as temperature decreases with height along the surface.

The coldest wind chill was −124 °C (−191 °F) on 24 August 2005 with a real temperature of −74 °C (−101 °F).

Though unconfirmed, it has been reported that Vostok reached the temperature of −91 °C (−132 °F) on 28 July 1997.[18]

The warmest recorded temperature at Vostok is −14.0 °C (6.8 °F), which occurred on January 1974.[14]

The coldest month was August 1987 with a mean temperature of −75.4 °C (−103.7 °F) and the warmest month was December 1989 with mean of −28 °C (−18 °F).[13]

In addition to the extremely cold temperatures, other factors make Vostok one of the most difficult places on Earth for human habitation:

  • An almost complete lack of moisture in the air.
  • A lack of oxygen because of its high elevation at 3,488 meters (11,444 ft).
  • A higher ionization of the air.
  • A polar night that lasts approximately 130 days, from late April to late August, including 85 continuous days of civil polar night (i.e. too dark to read, during which the Sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon.)[19]

Acclimatization to such conditions can take from a week to two months and is accompanied by headaches, eye twitches, ear pains, nose bleeds, perceived suffocation, sudden rises in blood pressure, loss of sleep, reduced appetite, vomiting, joint and muscle pain, arthritis, and weight loss of 3–5 kg (7–11 lb) (sometimes as high as 12 kg (26 lb)).[citation needed]

Ice core drilling

420,000 years of ice core data from Vostok, Antarctica, research station. Current period is at left. From bottom to top: insolation at 65°N due to Milankovitch cycles (connected to 18O); 18O isotope of oxygen; levels of methane (CH4); relative temperature; levels of carbon dioxide (CO2).

In the 1970s the Soviet Union drilled a set of cores 500–952 m deep. These have been used to study the oxygen isotope composition of the ice, which showed that ice of the last glacial period was present below about 400 m depth. Then three more holes were drilled: in 1984, Hole 3G reached a final depth of 2202 m; in 1990, Hole 4G reached a final depth of 2546 m; and in 1993 Hole 5G reached a depth of 2755 m; after a brief closure, drilling continued during the winter of 1995. In 1996 it was stopped at depth 3623 m, by the request of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research that expressed worries about possible contamination of Lake Vostok. This ice core, drilled collaboratively with the French, produced a record of past environmental conditions stretching back 420,000 years and covering four previous glacial periods. For a long time it was the only core to cover several glacial cycles; but in 2004 it was exceeded by the EPICA core, which whilst shallower, covers a longer time span. In 2003 drilling was permitted to continue, but was halted at the estimated distance to the lake of only 130 m.

The ancient lake was finally breached on 5 February 2012 when scientists stopped drilling at the depth of 3770 meters and reached the surface of the sub-glacial lake.

The brittle zone is approximately between 250 and 750 m and corresponds to the Last Glacial Maximum,[20] with the end of the Holocene climatic optimum at or near the 250 m depth.

Although the Vostok core reached a depth of 3623 m the usable climatic information does not extend down this far. The very bottom of the core is ice refrozen from the waters of Lake Vostok and contains no climate information. The usual data sources give proxy information down to a depth of 3310 m or 414,000 years.[21] Below this there is evidence of ice deformation. It has been suggested that the Vostok record may be extended down to 3345 m or 436,000 years, to include more of the interesting MIS11 period, by inverting a section of the record.[22] This then produces a record in agreement with the newer, longer EPICA record, although it provides no new information.

See also


  1. Global Measured Extremes of Temperature and Precipitation. National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved on 2007-06-21.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Winchester, Simon (2003). Extreme Earth. Collins. pp. 168–169. ISBN 0-00-716392-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. http://www.aari.nw.ru/projects/Antarctic/stations/mir/mir_en.html
  4. Russia abandons Ice Station Vostok
  5. 5.0 5.1 Deep drilling at Vostok station, Antarctica: history and recent events
  6. Oswald, G. K. A.; Robin, G. de Q. (1973). "Lakes beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet". Nature. 245 (5423): 251–254. doi:10.1038/245251a0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Ice Station Vostok". Wired. Retrieved 31 January 2011. |first= missing |last= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Dieter Fütterer; Georg Kleinschmidt (2006). Antarctica: contributions to global earth sciences : proceedings of the IX International Symposium of Antarctic Earth Sciences Potsdam, 2003. Birkhäuser. p. 138. ISBN 978-3-540-30673-3. Retrieved 30 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2012)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2012. Retrieved 26 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "List of Historic Sites and Monuments approved by the ATCM (2013)" (PDF). Antarctic Treaty Secretariat. 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Vostok Station". Antarctic Research and Investigation. Retrieved 16 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. http://www.aari.aq/data/data.asp?lang=0&station=6#sun_dur.txt
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Monthly values of meteorological parameters, Vostok station (89606)". Antarctic Research and Investigation. Retrieved 12 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Weather at Vostok. pogoda.ru.net. Retrieved on 2010-08-08
  15. 15.0 15.1 "World: Lowest Temperature". Arizona State University. Retrieved 16 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Budretsky, A.B. (1984). "New absolute minimum of air temperature". Bulletin of the Soviet Antarctic Expedition (in Russian). Leningrad: Gidrometeoizdat (105).CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Budretsky, A.B. (1984). "New absolute minimum of air temperature (English Version)". Bulletin of the Soviet Antarctic Expedition. Leningrad: Gidrometeoizdat (105).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Liang, Yong Li (2000). "Coldest Temperature On Earth". The Physics Factbook. Retrieved 2 September 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/antarctica/vostok-station?month=5&year=2015
  20. Lipenkov VY, Salamatin AN, Duval P (1997). "Bubbly-ice densification in ice sheets: 11. Applications" (PDF). J Glaciol. 43 (145): 397–407.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Vostok Ice Core Data www.ncdc.noaa.gov, 2005-12-22. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  22. Dominique Raynaud, Jean-Marc Barnola, Roland Souchez, Reginald Lorrain, Jean-Robert Petit, Paul Duval and Vladimir Y. Lipenkov. (2005). "Palaeoclimatology: The record for marine isotopic stage 11". Nature. 436 (7047): 39–40. doi:10.1038/43639b. PMID 16001055.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links