TASS, June 16, 2008 Monday 12:43 AM EST
The only Orthodox temple in Antarctica had a Holy Trinity Day service on Sunday, a source at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of the Federal Hydro-Meteorological Service told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
"Not only Russian polar explorers but also their colleagues from other Antarctic research stations attended the service," he said.
"The place for the Orthodox temple was selected so that it could be seen from afar. The Holy Trinity Church is the first site tourists see on their way to Antarctica from Terra del Fuego," the source said. The wood for the Antarctic temple was supplied from Altai. Palekh craftsmen did the iconostasis.
Thirty people can simultaneously visit the Siberian cedar church with the height of 15 meters. The church opened on May 29, 2004. A representative of the Holy Trinity - St. Sergius Lavra consecrated the temple. Nowadays, the church has a permanent priest.
There are about 45 round-the-year research stations in Antarctica. Russia has five active stations and one field base: Mirny, Vostok, Novolazarevskaya, Progress, Bellingshauzen and Druzhnaya 4. Three stations - Molodyozhnaya, Russkaya and Leningradskaya - are mothballed. All other former Soviet stations have been closed down permanently, he said.
Russia resumed comprehensive research in the Pacific sector of Antarctica after a 16-year pause. The crew of the research vessel installed automatic meteorological and geophysical equipment at the previously mothballed stations Leningradskaya and Russkaya. The institute' s forecast center is regularly receiving reports from the Antarctic Pacific coast.
The Molodyozhnaya coastal seasonal base, which is located between the all-year bases Novolazarevskaya and Progress, has been mothballed again until the arrival of the 54th Russian Arctic Expedition.
The Molodyozhnaya coastal station opened in 1963 as a regional hydro-meteorological center of the former Soviet Union in Antarctica," the press secretary said. It housed a large radio center, which was the main sender and receiver of radio information for Soviet explorers in Antarctica. Besides, the station had an atmospheric monitoring center and a set of research facilities. It became a seasonal base in the late 1990s.
The Novolazarevskaya station has mothballed the runway, which services heavy cargo plane making transcontinental flights between Africa and Antarctica.
The Russkaya station, which closed down in the end of the 20th century for the lack of funds, received automatic weather and geophysical gadgets this winter.
"The station is located at 74.46 South Latitude, 136.50 West Longitude on the coast of the Mary Byrd Land in Western Antarctica. The name of this station reminds us of the Russian people, who discovered the icy continent, and the huge contribution made by Russian explorers to Antarctic studies," Lukin said.
The 3,000-kilometer area of the Antarctic coast from the Ross Sea to western areas was a blank spot for long, Lukin said. "The Russkaya station that opened in 1980 somewhat filled in that gap," he said. Now monitoring equipment will be installed at the station again.
The station's runway will be repaired and a reserve of aviation fuel will be made for possible flights to other Russian stations in Antarctica, he said.
Another mothballed station is Leningradskaya. It is located on the Oates Land in Eastern Antarctica, adjacent to the Somov Sea. That sea is covered with drifting ice all the year round. Leningradskaya was opened in 1971 in the Antarctic sea climate characterized with swift changes of weather, which made it valuable from the scientific point of view.
"The Progress station is being modernized as an outpost of Russian polar explorers on the sixth continent," institute press secretary Sergei Balyasnikov said. "The new vehicles will be supplying diesel fuel and equipment to the Vostok station from the Mirny coastal laboratory."
"The Vostok station is the only one of the five permanently opened Antarctic stations of Russia, which is located away from the sea, on an ice plateau of 3,488 kilometers above the sea level," Balyasnikov said. A sub-glacial lake, Vostok, is located near the station.
Explorers based at the Vostok inland station plan to take water samples from the sub-glacial Vostok Lake in the expedition season of 2008/2009 with the use of environmentally friendly technologies.
"The fresh water pond is 450,000 years old," Antarctic expedition head and Deputy Director of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of the Federal Hydro-Meteorological Service Valery Lukin said. "The world scientific community regards the lake as a major geographic discovery of the previous century."
Vostok is larger than the Onega Lake and has the shape similar to Baikal. It stretches out for 280 kilometers, has the width from 50 kilometers and the depth of one kilometer. Russian scientists discovered the lake in the 1990s.
"In my opinion, the lake was covered with ice 500,000 or 1,000,000 years ago," geographer and glaciologist from the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Kotlyakov told Itar-Tass. The lake water is moving and has oxygen and other conditions necessary for living forms. "As soon as we drill through the ice, we will find bacteria dating back to 500 million years," he said. "Naturally, researchers do not know what kind of bacteria that could be. We must be very careful: this is very interesting and very dangerous."
Researchers have found anabiotic thermophilic bacteria (thermophilic DNA) in an ice sample retrieved from the depth of nearly four kilometers in the freshwater lake, a institute source told Itar-Tass earlier.
This species of microorganisms form exclusively in temperatures exceeding 55 degrees, Centigrade, polar biologists said. Meanwhile, air temperatures above the sub-glacial Vostok Lake may drop as low as minus 88.8 degrees.
"Warm streams from the earth entrails might have penetrated through cracks and formed the largest freshwater pond under the ice shield of Antarctica," the source said. This theory will be either confirmed or dispelled by the upcoming taking of water samples from Vostok in the 2008/2009 expedition season as part of the International Polar Year.
"The water of the relic pond is twice cleaner than the double-distilled water," the source said. Researchers have developed a unique method of penetration into the pond for keeping it clean.
NASA has taken a big interest in the experiment. American researchers think that results of the bacteriological tests of the Vostok water will give invaluable information about life forms in the solar system. They think that life may be found in sub-glacial oceans of the Europe moon of Jupiter.
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