True Crime In Antarctica | The History of Illegal Activities On The Ice Continent

Where there are humans, crime tends to follow. Antarctica is no exception, even with it's seriously low semi-permanent population. Here's a handful of the continent's most infamous cases.

Despite its relatively low population, Antarctica has been host to some serious crimes over the years. The continent has never had a permanent population, though research stations have been in action in various locations in Antarctica for well over a century now. Comprised of a few thousand scientists and researchers, the regular human presence requires essential services such as doctors, shops, and law enforcement, and where there are humans, crime tends to follow. Antarctica is no exception.

“Some of the continent’s most infamous cases remain unsolved to this day”

With Antarctic researchers taking very few belongings with them, theft and other petty crimes are extremely rare. So, on the rare occasion that crimes do occur on the polar desert it’s usually a big deal. According to the Antarctic Treaty, 53 nations (it’s a long story) agreed that criminals on the continent should be tried by their own country’s jurisdiction. That being said, some of the continent’s most infamous cases remain unsolved to this day. Here’s a quick look at the history of crime in Antarctica.

The Bellingshausen Station Stabbing

Spoilers can be a big deal for some people. For some, in fact, ruining the ending of a story could (allegedly) be enough to tip someone over the edge. See the case of Oleg Beloguzov and his short stint at the Bellingshausen Station on Antartica’s King George Island.

“In October 2018, Beloguzov was stabbed in the chest multiple times by Sergey Savitsky”

In October 2018, Beloguzov was stabbed in the chest multiple times by Sergey Savitsky (a drunken colleague of just six months). The two men in their early 50s were reported to have been clashing in the months leading up to the attack, and some sources report that the final straw was when Beloguzov started spoiling the endings of books which Savitsky had taken out from the research station’s library.

Down there on ‘The Ice’, forms of entertainment can run pretty dry so it’s easy to see why spoilers could clearly be a big deal. Alternative reports of the incident claim that Beloguzov was stabbed after poking fun at Savitsky, telling him to dance on the dining room table in public for money. Of course, neither of these scenarios justify physical violence and Savitsky recognised this. Surrendering himself, Savitsky was flown out of the continent and prepared for a remorseful court hearing in Saint Petersburg. After treatment at a Chilean hospital, Beloguzov survived the attack and forgave his colleague, with the case being dropped shortly after Savitsky’s hearing.​

The Burning Down of the Almirante Brown Station

We don’t need to be the ones to tell you that things can get pretty cold down in Antarctica, but did you know how cold? Despite the best attempts of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers, temperatures in Antarctica regularly fall below -60 °C. The lowest-ever recorded temperature on the planet was recorded on the icy sheet of a continent, at -89 °C in the summer of 1983.

“There are no reports of any charges pressed against the arsonist”

It’s generally understood that people aren’t going to spend over a year there, so, in protest of being ordered to spend another Winter in Antarctica in 1984, the leader and on-site doctor of the Brown Station set alight to the entire station on the world’s coldest continent. The station’s leader is reported to have waited until the last ship was about to depart for Argentina to burn the facilities down, forcing the ship to take the entire crew back to their homeland. The man had his reasons, and although we’d like to say there could have been a better way of doing things, being forced to stay on a continent which is essentially a just freezing cold alien planet (compared to the warmth of watching the telly in the lounge with a nice cup of tea) probably requires drastic action.

There are no reports of any charges pressed against the arsonist leader, and the most we know about the aftermath is that the Brown Station now only operates in the Summer months.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Mystery

The sudden death of Rodney Marks, an Australian astrophysicist, remains unsolved over two decades on from when it occurred. The day before his passing on May 12th 2000, the 32-year-old had visited the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station doctor three times, reporting nausea, stomach pains and a high temperature.

“The postmortem revealed Marks had died from methanol poisoning”

The postmortem revealed Marks had died from methanol poisoning, which sparked interest with New Zealand Police’s DSS Grant Wormald. A consensus of the incident remains that Marks consumed the methanol unknowingly, as there’s no reason to believe that he was either suicidal or looking for alcoholic substitutes – two to of the most common reasons for methanol consumption.

Despite years of investigation, Marks’ family have since given up any hope of finding out what happened to the astrophysicist in Antarctica, claiming that any further attempts would be a “fruitless exercise” – referring perhaps to the reported unwillingness to help of the 40+ people who found themselves at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station at the time.

With the continent’s unusually low policing levels, it’s suspected that the companies present on the base at the time were withholding key information from the investigation, further raising eyebrows as to what really happened to him.

The Volstok Station Chess Murder

Ever wondered why games of chess are banned at Russian research stations, both in space and in Antarctica? Neither had we. But the ban sort of makes sense, following a scientist’s fatal overreaction to losing a game of chess at the Volstok Station in 1959.

“The loser of the game was upset enough to attack the winner with an ice axe”

It’s said that the loser of the game was upset enough to attack the winner with an ice axe, and murder him. Not much is known about this particular Antarctic incident, the relationship between the two scientists, or the game of chess itself, but we can guess that the murder can’t have been purely down to late scientist’s final move. Banning Chess in all Russian research stations could seem a bit extreme, but then again it makes sense to avoid any games that have historically ended with an ice axe in someone’s body.

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