Sunday, July 17, 2011

All your bases

As I’ve been reading about Antarctica lately, I’ve been browsing around looking at information on the current bases down there.

There are more than I expected; some from rather unexpected countries. (With the relatively recent arrival of India, I suppose you can get a curry on any night, as well as shop at a discount variety store if you left something at home.) I was curious to see what they look like, as I was hoping national architectural flare might show up, even on the icy continent.

Well, it was an interesting exercise.

At the South Pole itself, the base was formerly noteworthy for its geodesic dome. Very space age looking in its day, I was a little sad to see that it has recently been dismantled. (As far as I can tell, its disadvantage was that it was too easily covered with snow.) Here’s a photo of it at the start of its disassembly:


In the background, you can see the new, somewhat boring in comparison, building. A better picture is here:

new base

It’s built on legs that can be raised to keep it above the increasing snow. This is a common feature of most new bases on the higher parts of the continent.

So, what about other stations? The French-Italian one has a bit more space age flair:


The German one looks like the top part of a ship on stilts:


Norway’s Troll Station (great name) is disappointingly boring by comparison – it looks like a collection of shipping containers, no?:


A Bulgarian base on the South Shetland Islands (this counts as an Antarctic base, apparently) has all the architectural flair and impressive scale of a scout den:


They do, however, have an Eastern Orthodox chapel, which from the outside looks very much like a fruit shop cold room with a cross on top:

Inside it still looks like a refrigerator, but I guess it's nice that it's there at all.

The Chapel has its own Wikipedia entry, which also leads me to the more remarkable in style Russian Orthodox Trinity Church on King George Island:

I wonder if for much of the year if you can to the door through the snow. I see that there are chapels further south (including specifically Catholic ones) on the main continent itself. You can see nice photos of them here.

The Argentineans, on the Antarctic Peninsula, have gone for a homier, village style:


Mind you, Australia does not do Antarctic stations with any architectural value at all. Davis Station looks a complete, multi-coloured mess:


And Mawson is not much better:


OK, this is getting boring now, but not before my favourite station, Belgium's Princess Elizabeth base:


So that’s where the Jupiter 2 ended up.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. Clever last line too.


Steve said...

Thanks, Gab. I liked the Russian Orthodox Church at the end of the world, too.

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder why, if polar ice is supposedly melting and glaciers disappearing, that these stations must all be built on stilts to prevent complete snow coverage? And when the stations are abandoned they quickly disappear under increasing snow?

"It’s built on legs that can be raised to keep it above the increasing snow. This is a common feature of most new bases on the higher parts of the continent."