The ceremony took place at the headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society in St Petersburg.
Lake Vostok, the biggest subglacial lake in Antarctica, is located near Russia’s Vostok Antarctic station under a shield of ice around 4,000 metres deep and has been cut off from the earth’s surface for millions of years.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends.
I would like to congratulate you on receiving the prestigious national awards.
It is symbolic that the ceremony is taking place at the headquarters of the Russian Geographical Society, as one of its members – outstanding Russian geographer Andrei Kapitsa – was the author of the hypothesis that there is a subglacial lake under the Vostok station in the Antarctic. In 1996, the hypothesis was proven correct. This was considered a major geographic discovery of the second half of the 20th century, while penetrating the ice shell around the lake became a true scientific, technological and human triumph, which made it possible, among other things, to make progress in the study of climate change on the planet.
However, this is not all. I have met with you, and I have a general idea what this work entails and what it means for science. You, my friends, made this triumph possible and I know that the road was long and difficult. You and your colleagues worked in the harsh conditions of the Antarctic with its extremely low temperatures and shortage of oxygen, persistently looking for ever new technological solutions, learning to use unique new technologies and equipment.
You overcame all these trials with dignity, demonstrating your courage and professionalism, while the drilling operations have been acclaimed as one of the most significant pages in the development of the Antarctic. This event not only caught the attention of the whole world, but it also demonstrated yet again the high level of Russian science and our country’s firm position in the development of the Antarctic.
We have plenty to be proud of in this area. Thus, it was our compatriots, Faddei Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev who discovered this unknown land almost two centuries ago, in 1820. This country pioneered the creation of polar stations in the Antarctic as it launched the Complex Antarctic Expedition in 1955.
Today Russia has a large network of research stations operating in the Antarctic year-round. Hundreds of people work there every year and we intend to enhance this effort. Last year we opened a new wintering unit at the Progress station. The new ship owned by the Russian Hydrometeorological Service, the Akademik Tryoshnikov, is about to return to St Petersburg any day now after its second voyage to the Antarctic. A large-scale action plan is laid out in the Strategy for Developing the Russian Federation’s activities in Antarctica until 2020 and beyond. It is called upon to resolve the pressing issues of modernising transportation, acquiring new equipment and renovating the existing expedition and logistics bases.
We are well aware of the significance of scientific research in the Antarctic, of Russia’s constant and active presence on the sixth continent, and we intend to support all those who work there. You are working in conditions of extreme risk and under great physical and emotional strain. Therefore, I find it proper and fair to level out the social benefits of the experts working in the Antarctic with those of the Far North.
Last year we established a professional holiday of the Polar Explorer in honour of those who develop the White Continent and the Arctic. This is yet another acknowledgement of your services by the state and society.
I would like to thank you for your painstaking coordinated work, for being true to your cause and for achieving every goal, and I wish you every success in your future work. Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Friends, allow me to congratulate you once again.
Your work attracts extensive media coverage, but, frankly speaking, few people know of the outcome and significance of this research. However, when one begins to read carefully, think about it or hears you speak – it has a breathtaking effect.
Many things seem improbable; no wonder some experts compare the results of your work with landing on Mars. It is very difficult to imagine that there are still places on Earth that have not come into contact with our atmosphere, with our ecosystem for at least 500,000 years or even more.
This is a unique opportunity to study our planet and its climate, and maybe other subjects, and to conduct in-depth research whose value is still hard to assess.
When people do something like this, they probably do not think about awards, but you undoubtedly deserve them.
Thank you very much.