Cheap vodka, endless nights – literally – and an unlimited supply of ice cubes, the Faraday Bar at the Vernadsky Research Base on Antarctica has all the ingredients for a great watering hole.
Originally built by the British, when a cheeky carpenter decided to take the timber for a new pier and build a small bar instead, the research base was bought by the Ukraine in the ’90s for one pound, after the English decided it was too expensive to demolish.
Today, it’s the social hub for 12 Ukrainian men, used for every birthday celebration, welcome party, farewell drinks, and as an exotic pit stop for passengers floating by on their Antarctic cruises.
The bar was meant to bring laughter and a feeling of warmth to what was the most miserable and unloved base in the Antarctic.
Inside the humble building, a collection of British and Ukrainian ephemera hang from the walls, along with framed black and white photos of famous Antarctic explorers. There’s a record player and a small collection of vinyl, including rock classics like Led Zeppelin, which is presumably used to keep the party going in the summertime, when they get 24 hours of daylight. And proving that sexism can flourish in sub-zero temps, there’s a collection of women’s underwear on display, thanks to the bar’s antiquated policy of giving free shots to any ladies willing to donate their bra or undies in return.
Behind the bar, you’ll find anyone from a biologist or geophysicist slinging the drinks. A reasonably uncomplicated job, considering they only serve vodka, vodka or vodka, all of which is made onsite. Of course, these are top-level scientists, so the alchemy behind home brewing some basic spirits is child’s play to them. They’ve even started mucking around and creating some special batches, flavoured with ingredients like almonds and honey. But despite having a captive audience, and being the southernmost bar on the planet, located 1,000 nautical miles from the nearest city, shots are only three bucks.
“The bar was meant to bring laughter and a feeling of warmth to what was the most miserable and unloved base in the Antarctic,” said Keith “Cat” Larrett. Cat was the guy who built the joint and over 30 years later that original purpose lingers.
Image: The harsh surrounds of the Vernadsky Research Base