-128.6″F – That was the thermometer reading on July 21,1983, at Russia’s Vostok research station in Antarctica, when scientists at the base recorded the coldest temperature ever measured on Earth.
The extreme cold around Vostok is due to its location on the Antarctic Plateau, some 780 miles from the nearest coast and 11,444 feet above sea level. The air is thin, the wind is frigid, and darkness reigns for four months of the year. The Vostok station, established on Dec. 16,1957, houses a permanent staff of 13 to 25 scientists, who are studying ice core samples in search of life in massive Lake Vostok, which is buried under 13,000 feet of ice.
The coldest pole – Vostok is the southern Pole of Cold, the spot in the Southern Hemisphere with Earth’s lowest temperature. The northern Pole of Cold is in Siberia.
The warmest day – Jan. 11,2002, holds the record of Vostok’s hottest day; the weather was almost mild, with a temperature of 10 degrees F.
Average temperatures – August is the coldest month, with an average temperature of-91 degrees F; December’s average is -27 degrees F.
The heart of darkness – On April 22, the sun rises over Vostok for the last time during the polar winter; it will not be seen here again until August.