Pole of Inaccessibility – An Abandoned Antarctic Research Base

Pole of Inaccessibility

The Pole of Inaccessibility, or Полюс недоступности in Russian, was a research station in Antarctica built by the Soviet Union for their Antarctic expeditions. It was first used in 1958 for weather and meteorological research and recorded world’s lowest year-round average temperature of -58.2°C or -72°F. The southern pole of inaccessibility is generally regarded as the point in Antarctica furthest from any ocean, not to be confused with the South Pole which is 878 km or 546 miles away.

The South Pole

The ceremonial South Pole with the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in the background. Interestingly, this is a photo op located a number of metres from the actual geographic South Pole.

The Soviet Antarctic Expedition (SAE or SovAE) was part of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of the Soviet Committee on Antarctic Research of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The first Soviet contact with Antarctica was in January 1947 when the Slava whaling flotilla began operating in Antarctic waters. The first Antarctic expedition lasted from 30 November 1955 to 1957 and involved 127 expedition members and 75 crew members. It was responsible for the construction of the Mirny Station, the first Soviet base in Antarctica.

Mirny Antarctic Base

A Russian stamp commemorating 50 years since the construction of Mirny, the first Soviet Antarctic base.

Construction of the Pole of Inaccessibility base was undertaken by the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition who delivered the equipment by tractor convoy. The station had a hut big enough for 4 people as well as a radio hut and an electrical hut. The buildings were prefabricated units that were placed atop tractors and used as accommodation by the team on the journey. An airstrip was cleared once the hut was in place allowing Li-2 aircraft to land at the base, the first of which did so on December 18th 1958. After only 2 weeks in service, the base was abandoned. It was thought that with the distance to the other stations so great, permanent operations would not have been feasible. It was however revisited and used for a number of expeditions afterwards.

Pole of Inaccessibility research station

A picture of the base taken by the American team in 1965. The bust of Lenin sits atop the chimney.

The 8th Soviet Antarctic Expedition visited the Pole of Inaccessibility base for five days in February 1964. The South Pole–Queen Maud Land Traverse team, part of an American scientific exploration expedition, arrived at the base in January 1965 and were flown out a few days later. Another American crew arrived in December 1965. The 12th Soviet Antarctic Expedition visited the base in 1967.

Inside the Pole of Inaccessibility station

A picture taken inside the station during the South Pole-Queen Maud Land Traverse in 1965.

The Pole of Inaccessibility base has had other sporadic visits over the years such as in January 2007 when the British Team N2i visited using specially-designed foil kites. The building is covered by snow but a bust of Vladimir Lenin remains in place identifying the spot. The research station was recently visited in 2011 by the Antarctica Legacy Crossing when Sebastian Copeland and  Eric McNair-Landry visited on their way to completing the first partial east-west transcontinental crossing of Antarctica.

Bust of Lenin in Antarctica

A more recent picture shows the base covered with snow apart from the top of the chimney and the bust of Lenin.

There are a number of these abandoned research bases in Antarctica as most areas are not suitable for permanent habitation. The Argentinian Almirante Brown Antarctic Base is one such example. Scott’s Hut is another, however its purpose was to house the race to the pole by Robert Scott and then later for further expeditions by Ernest Shackleton.

The southern pole of inaccessibility is one of the the most remote, inhospitable places on earth so it is a testament to those operating in such extreme environments that anything was built there in the first place.

Location: Pole Of Inaccessibility, Antarctica

Abandoned: 1958

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