Polytechnic student, the youngest member of the Antarctic expedition, talked about his work at the Akademik Vernadskyi station

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Volodymyr Khomko comes from a village in Zbarazhchyna. He is only 22 years old. The young man has already managed to implement several projects, and work at the largest IT company of Ukraine as well as at the Raiffeisen Bank.

He is the youngest member of the 27th Ukrainian Antarctic Expedition at the Akademik Vernadskyi station. Volodymyr is a system administrator, and also makes unique videos about the work of polar explorers.

Volodymyr majors in Computer Technologies, the Department of Computer-Aided Design, Lviv Polytechnic. Now the young man is studying for a master’s degree at our university.

Every year, the National Antarctic Science Center announces a competition for the selection of candidates for the winter Ukrainian Antarctic expedition to the Akademik Vernadskyi station. The competition is open and does not limit participants by age, gender or other characteristics. A team of 12–14 people is usually selected for wintering: scientists, engineering and technical specialists, a doctor and a cook. They will live and work in the harsh conditions of Antarctica for a year. Candidates are subject to both general and specific requirements, depending on the position and work tasks.

Volodymyr passed the selection. One day he got a call and was told that he was chosen as the main system administrator and he needed to prepare for a trip to Antarctica. The flight was supposed to be on February 28. The guy packed his things, and… the war began.

The expedition was on the verge of failure. No one knew what would happen next. The team was ordered to wait. Volodymyr wasted no time and volunteered in Lviv, waiting for news about a trip to Antarctica. It became possible to go there in the middle of March. Despite the invasion and concern for their relatives, all participants of this year’s expedition agreed to go to the station. They understood that their scientific work is also very important for Ukraine, so there is nowhere to retreat.

The oldest member of the 27th Antarctic expedition is 50 years old. The youngest is Volodymyr, who turned 22 in July. His duties as a system administrator include ensuring communication channels (radio, Internet, walkie-talkies) both within the station and the mainland – the main and two spare ones, communication with ships that arrive on the island, maintenance of equipment, repair of equipment, etc.

As for the duties of the other members of the expedition, the mechanic takes care of the electricity and heating, the diesel operator – the operation of three diesel generators, motor boats, etc. The doctor not only provides qualified medical care, but also studies the condition of the team, because they are also the objects of research – how the unusual Antarctic environment affects people. The chef prepares lunch and dinner six days a week. On Sunday, he is replaced by one of the polar explorers. The rest are scientists: biologists, meteorologists and geophysicists. This year there are three women in the team.

Sometimes the British come to the Akademik Vernadskyi station, because it was Britain that transferred the research station to Ukraine in February 1996. Volodymyr says that before the coronavirus, tourists often came there. A tour of the island was arranged for them, and they were showed the station, penguins, etc.

– I started filming the operation of the station. I try to show what no one has shown before. I read the comments and see that many people like my format. Some watch videos with children and ask to continue. This is motivational content for adults and children. In the conditions of war, it is very important to distract yourself from the news. Even teachers wrote to me that they use videos in lessons, because they are more interesting than books, – shares his success the sysadmin from Ternopil region.

Volodymyr says that the cold is not too strong on Galindez Island. There is a lot of snow, strong winds, but the lowest temperature ever was only 8–10 degrees below zero. Despite this, shooting video is not easy, equipment breaks down in extreme conditions. It is especially difficult to lift a drone into the air.

– You can lose it. It’s hard to take off and even harder to land. It can be quiet near the ground, and gusty winds above. There are many cases when drones of polar explorers sank in a matter of minutes. Let’s say the signal disappears near icebergs. If it happens it means that the drone gurgles into the water, laughs the boy.

Before shooting a video, Volodymyr writes a script with a rough plan of what he wants to tell. He films and edit everything himself. One YouTube video takes a lot of time. For example, the penultimate video was filmed for more than 10 hours.

The main predator in Antarctica is the sea leopard. This animal is four meters long and weighs hundreds of kilograms. The polar explorers are very beware of it. Sea leopards can swim after the participants of the expedition, chase them, because this is how they guard their territory. It happened that the mammals even nibbled on the balloons in the boats.

Among other dangers: you can’t swim close to icebergs, it’s important to know your sea route to the smallest detail not to run into an underwater rock. There is also a cliff on the island itself. The huge glacier gave cracks, so you should carefully look under your feet while working.

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