Antarctica has recently become the scene of some intense human drama, which is never good news for an isolated continent filled with high tensions and alcohol, but no police or hospitals.
A man has been charged with attempted murder following an attack earlier this month at a remote research station on King George Island off the coast of Antarctica, numerous news outlets have reported.
Sergei Savitsky, a 54-year-old electrical engineer, has been accused of stabbing Oleg Beloguzov, a 52-year-old welder, in the chest with a knife after a drunken brawl at Bellingshausen Station on October 9, according to Russian newspaper Argumenty i Fakty.
Tensions between the pair had reportedly been mounting for several months. The decisive moment came on in the early hours of October 9 when the victim allegedly told Savitsky to dance on the table in the station’s communal area for money. Insulted by the joke, Savitsky pulled a knife out and lunged for Beloguzov.
The wounded man was immediately flown to a medical facility in Chile, at least 1,000 kilometers (670 miles) away, where he’s expected to make a full recovery.
Savitsky is believed to have been suffering from acute mental health problems at the time of the incident. After voluntarily surrendering to the station manager and an 11-day wait for the next flight, he returned home to Russia and was placed under house arrest. Savitsky has admitted to stabbing his colleague but insists he did not try to kill him.
Bellingshausen Station was one of the first research facilities founded by the Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1968. It is very near the only permanently staffed Eastern Orthodox church in Antarctica. Temperatures here average around -2.3°C (27.9°F) and rarely ever go higher than 1.5°C (34.7°F). In the dead of winter, around July, temperatures can drop to an average low of -9.7°C (14.5°F).
The lonely research facilities of the South Pole are notorious for alcohol abuse and, needless to say, drinking is suspected to be a factor in this incident. The few people who work here are subjected to blistering cold temperatures, isolation from loved ones, and a constant stark snowy backdrop. In wintertime, things are even worse when they are faced with periods of 24-hour darkness. As such, alcohol is often used to chase away the blues and ease social bonding. By one estimate, reported by Argumenty i Fakty, Vostok Antarctic Station went through 200 bottles of vodka between 13 people within six months.