Antarctica 2018: Russian Scientist Charged with Attempted Murder at Research Station

1280px Bellingshausen Base IMG 6019

The Antarctic ski season is still more than a week away from officially getting started and already we’re starting to get some strange stories from the frozen continent. According to reports, a Russian researcher by the name of Sergey Savitsky has been charged with attempted murder after he stabbed a coworker at the Bellingshausen Station, a scientific research facility located on King George Island, which is part of the Shetland Islands that fall along the Antarctic Peninsula.

It seems that Savitsky suffered a mental breakdown over the course of the very long, and isolating, winter that is now coming to an end in the Antarctic. This led to the stabbing, which allegedly took place back on October 9. Since then, the Russian researcher has been placed under house arrest and will remain so until December 8, which is probably the date that he is scheduled to rotate out of Bellingshausen and head home to Russia. By then, the austral spring/summer should be in effect, allowing personnel, supplies, and vehicles to more easily come and go from the frozen continent.

The victim of the stabbing attack hasn’t been named, but they have been reportedly evacuated back to Chile for medical attention. Indications are that they will make a full recovery from their wounds and may have already headed home to Russia as well.

The emotional breakdown that led to the attack has been chalked up to tensions arising from a prolonged stay in a confined space. In other words, being kept inside for weeks on end while waiting out the Antarctic winter caused Savitsky to lose control and attack his teammate. Those kinds of tensions are not uncommon in these kinds of situations, although resorting to violence is somewhat of a rarity.

During the austral winter, most of the Antarctic research stations keep a skeleton staff to ensure that the base of operations remains functional and well maintained until operations ramp up again between November and January. Those who have spent the long off-season in such a base will tell you that it can be a very long and difficult period of time. The stations are obviously quite isolated and the weather conditions keep them from going outside for any extended length of time. In this case, the isolation and tension led to violence, but thankfully it sounds like all involved will be okay. We’ll have to wait to see if Savitsky is sentenced to a prison cell however.

Lets hope that the rest of the Antarctic season is much less bleak and scary.

Kraig Becker