With a record holder base commander and new ideas: the 26th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition is leaving for overwintering at Vernadsky station

With a record holder base commander and new ideas: the 26th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition is leaving for overwintering at Vernadsky station

Today, on March 24, the 26th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition (UAE) departed to Akademik Vernadsky station – its participants will spend about 13 months on the icy continent. The team is again the youngest among all the previous expeditions, but it is led by one of the most experienced Ukrainian polar explorers.

“Last year we sent to Antarctica the youngest expedition of all years – the average age of the participants was 37. This year, in the 26th UAE, the average age is even less – almost 36, and the youngest participant will be 25 this April – that is, he is the same age as the transfer of our station from the UK to Ukraine. Therefore, we continue to open Antarctic science to young people, giving them more chances to self-realization and as well as to join the world research, while remaining Ukrainian scientists”, – noted Evgen Dykyi, Director of the National Antarctic Scientific Center.

At the same time, the head of the UAE will be the record holder for the number of winterings at Vernadsky – Bogdan Gavrylyuk, a geophysicist from Kharkiv. For him this will be the ninth year-round expedition (before the maximum number of winterings did not exceed 8). Bogdan is also the oldest member of the team and will celebrate his 49th birthday at the station.

In total, the 26th UAE will have 12 participants: 7 scientists, a doctor, a cook, a diesel engineer, a system mechanic and a system administrator. Of these, 11 men and 1 woman biologist Oksana Savenko, who is going to winter for the second time (this is also a record, no woman has ever wintered twice before).

The 26th UAE has the most representatives of the Kharkiv region – 3, Kyiv and Chernihiv region – 2 from each. Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia, Poltava, Kyiv and Lviv regions – 1 representative from each region.

The full list of 26 UAE participants can be viewed here or on the infographics.


Before leaving for Antarctica, the entire team underwent a mandatory week-long training, gaining the knowledge and skills necessary for work and life at the station – from lectures on areas of research at Vernadsky and the legal status of Antarctica to work with equipment and fire safety training. An important component of the training was also the team-work under the supervision of psychologists. Future polar explorers learned to interact with each other in conditions close to the Antarctic ones.

The main tasks of the participants of a year-round expedition are:

  • conducting daily measurements;
  • conducting planned research;
  • supporting the work of the station.

Daily measurements are carried out in a number of research areas and have been continuous for several decades. Some of them were started by British scientists, others were added in the Ukrainian period.

For example, meteorological measurements have been going on since 1947 and are used both for weather forecasting in Ukraine and the world, as well as for global forecasts of climate change on the planet.

One of the longest series of observations at our station is also the concentration of ozone in the atmosphere – since 1957. It allowed British researchers to discover a phenomenon such as the ozone hole at the time, and now Ukrainian scientists are constantly monitoring its state.

Measurements of the state of the ionosphere, initiated by Ukrainian scientists, have been going on for more than two decades.

Planned research within five main areas:

  • geospace;
  • geological and geophysical;
  • hydrometeorological;
  • oceanographic;
  • biological.

For example, scientists will continue global monitoring of thunderstorm activity in the atmosphere of our planet, study of the structure of glaciers using ground-penetrating radar and study of whale’s migrations using photo-identification.

A number of new studies will also be initiated. In particular, using a powerful meteorological radar, the formation of clouds and precipitation will be studied, and the “languages” and “dialects” of whales recorded with hydrophones will be studied.

However, we will go into more detail on all these studies during the course of expedition.

The station will be supported mainly by the life support team. Since now a large-scale modernization is underway at Vernadsky, three specialists – a diesel operator, a system mechanic and a system administrator – went on the expedition a month earlier to join the installation and adjustment of new equipment they will be working with.

Most of the expedition left for Antarctica today from Boryspil airport. Their journey will pass through Turkey, Brazil and Chile, where the team will face a 2-week quarantine. Then by ship they will get to the station.

Due to the pandemic and a sharp increase in diseases in Ukraine, before the departure polar explorers limited all contacts as much as possible and passed COVID-19 tests and the NASC did not give the expedition members the traditional solemn farewell with the presence of the media and other guests. But even COVID-19 could not change one tradition – a photo of the team at the monument to Hrushevsky in Kyiv.

We wish our winterers an easy way to the station and a successful expedition! In the meantime, we will wait in Kyiv for their colleagues from the 25th UAE, who are already getting ready to go home 🙂

(Photo by Yevhena Zadorozhna)