Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Antarctic Religion ?

Antarctica has no permanent residents, but a number of governments maintain permanent manned research stations throughout the continent. The number of people conducting and supporting scientific research and other work on the continent and its nearby islands varies from about 1,000 in winter to about 5,000 in the summer. Many of the stations are staffed year-round, the winter-over personnel typically arriving from their home countries for a one-year assignment.

Church in Ice Cave at Belgrano 2 Station, Antarctica.

Although Antarctica has only a tiny population, its inhabitants come from around the world, and include followers of numerous religious faiths.According to The Association of Religion Data Archives, 72.00% of personnel in Antarctica adhere to Christianity, 23.60% are non-religious, 2.71% are Muslim, 1.00% are Hindu, and 0.70% are Buddhist. 

In the vicinity of McMurdo Station, there are two interesting monuments:

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Vince's Cross, near Mcmurdo station

Vince's Cross, a wooden cross erected in 1902 to commemorate Seaman George T. Vince, the first man to lose his life in McMurdo Sound, following a fall into the water from a steep, icy slope nearby during a blizzard.

Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, a Madonna statue, near Mcmurdo station

Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, a Madonna statue that commemorates Richard T. Williams, a Seabee tractor driver who drowned off Cape Royds near Ross Island, in January 1956 when his D-8 Caterpillar (30- tons tractor) broke through the sea ice. Near this shrine is a monument erected to commemorate Raymond T. Smith, a Navy petty officer killed during a ship unloading accident at McMurdo in February, 1982.

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Catholic Church at Chilean Base P.te Eduardo Frei 
The Chapel of Base Marambio, Antarctica

Trinity Church, Bellingshausen Station

An Orthodox church opened in 2004 at the Russian Bellingshausen Station is also manned year-round by one or two priests, who are similarly rotated every year.

Chapel of the Snows, McMurdo Station

Chapel of the Snows is a non-denominational Christian church located at the United States McMurdo Station on Ross Island, Antarctica. The chapel is the southernmost religious building in the world and has regular Catholic and Protestant services. During the Austral Summer, the chapel is staffed by rotational chaplains. The U.S. Air National Guard supplies Protestant Chaplains and the Archdiocese of New Zealand supplies Catholic Priests. The chapel is also host to services and meetings for other faith groups such as Latter Day Saints, Baha'i, and Buddhism and non-religious groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. These meetings are dependent on lay-leadership to be the points of contact and facilitators. The building itself may hold up to 63 worshippers.

St. Ivan Rilski Chapel, St. Kliment Ohridski

The St. Ivan Rilski Chapel at the Bulgarian base St. Kliment Ohridski on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands is the first Eastern Orthodox edifice in Antarctica, and the southernmost Eastern Orthodox building of worship in the world. The three foundation stones of the 3.5 by 3.5m building were laid on 9 December 2001 by Protodeacon Lyubomir Bratoev, and the completed Chapel was consecrated on 9 February 2003.

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Chapel of “San Francesco de Asis” at Esperanza Base, Antarctica

The Chapel (picture above) shown in the pictures is the one at Esperanza Base, and it is dedicated to San Francesco de Asis. It may not be the smallest chapel in the world but must be one of the most remote, and for sure it is the most Sothern one dedicated to S. Francesco.

The Worldwide Antarctic Program proposes building a Catholic chapel at Mario Zucchelli Station, Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica; while the first Catholic chapel (named after Saint Francis of Assisi) was built in 1976 at the Argentine Esperanza Base. The southernmost Catholic chapel lies at the Argentine Belgrano II Base.
There are also churches on some of the Antarctic islands situated north of 60° south latitude (and thus not part of the Antarctic Treaty System), including Grytviken on South Georgia (since 1913), and Port-aux-Français on the main island of Kerguelen.
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