On the 8th January, 2002 a Russian Antonov-3 aircraft arrived at the South Pole with a party of 14 people including the Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma (Parliament) Dr. Artur N. Chilingarov.  The 14 people also included tourists from the Ukraine, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.

The visit was accorded special VIP treatment on account of the Russian political  involvement.  Unfortunately a mechanical problem  caused the aircraft to be grounded indefinitely with alternative plans required to fly the party out. The following photos shows the Antanov 3 aircraft  and the Russian party        with the Duma Deputy Chairman holding a flag in front of the South Pole marker.                           

Photos by Scott F. Smith (South Pole photos) and  Klaus Arne Pedersen (Christchurch photos)

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The Russian Antonov-3 landing on the South pole ski-way.

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Turning off the ski-way in front of the science buildings

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Parked behind the South Pole marker

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The Antanov-3 showing its large bi-plane shape

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The Antonov-3 being unloaded with the Pole Dome Station building behind.

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The Duma Vice-President, Dr Artur Chilingarov  (carrying red box) leaving the aircraft.

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Antonov-3 with American South Pole personnel gathered around

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The Markings on the side of the Antonov-3.

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The photographer Scott Smith posing with a hero shot in front of the Antonov-3 aircraft

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The Antonov-3 being refueled at the South Pole

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Dr. Artur N Chilingarov at left holding a State flag.

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Now holding aloft a red flag with St George slaying the Dragon.

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Posing with various Russian flags and the US Stars and Stripes in front of the South Pole

Update 12th January, 2002.

During their two days at the South Pole, the Expedition members were bedded on the South Pole station Gymnasium floor.

An Adventure Network DC-3 aircraft arrived at the South Pole on Thursday 10th January with a tour group and back-loaded the tourist part of the Russian Expedition to the ANI base at Patriot Hills.   These people will then return to Punta Arenas by a scheduled ANI aircraft. The Russian VIP Contingent of 7 members was flown by American Hercules LC130 aircraft to McMurdo and then onward to Christchurch where it arrived at 3.15pm on Friday 11th January.

The main Russian VIP is Dr. Artur N. Chilingarov -- Hero of the Soviet Union and Deputy Chairman of the State Duma.  He is a famous Polar Scientist who won his special status as a Hero of the Soviet Union in 1985 when he led the expedition which rescued the research vessel "Mikhail Somov" which had been trapped in Antarctic pack ice for many months.

It was stated to South Pole authorities that the Antonov-3 biplane would spend the winter at the South Pole and then be retrieval by the Russian authorities next season. 

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The Adventure Network International DC-3 arriving behind the ceremonial flags

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ANI DC3 aircraft parked in front of new pole station building

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The Antonov-3 being hauled away by an American bulldozer.

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Bulldozer towing ski-plane

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Passing the old Dome Station and the ANI DC-3

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A nice tail view of the tow showing the hardness of the runway surface

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The Antonov-3 Parked up on a hard berm and tied down

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Another view showing the tie down cords

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A more distant view showing the empty arches alonside the hard berm

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Some of the Russians arriving at their Christchurch Hotel Friday 11th January 2002.

ChilingarovChpic.jpg (61685 bytes) Dr. Artur N. Chilingarov, the expedition leader and "Hero of the Soviet Nation" for his polar work after arrival in Christchurch.


It was expected that the VIP party would remain a few days in New Zealand before returning to Russia where Dr Chilingarov will have some more tales to tell to fellow members of the Russian Polar Explorers Association of which he is the current President.

15th January, 2002 update.

Dr Chilingarov and his VIP party remained in Christchurch for only slightly more than 24 hours before flying back home to Moscow. While he was in Christchurch he graciously agreed to answer questions about the expedition which were put to him by Steven McLachlan with the Russian Ambassador to New Zealand, Gennady I. Shabannikov kindly acting as translator.

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Dr Artur Chilingarov ( left), Steven McLachlan (centre) and Gennady Shabannikov (right)


Dr Chilingarov said that the expedition was staged to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the first Russian flight to the Antarctic. It started with the expedition flying by Illuysin-76 Jumbo Jet from Moscow to Punta Arenas in Southern Chile with the Antonov-3 aircraft carried inside the hold of the Illuysin. The Antonov-3 was basically an old upgraded Antanov-2 aircraft. It flew the 1200 Km non-stop from Punta Arenas to the South Pole without a stop at Patriot Hills.

Dr Chilingarov, when questioned about the expected retrieval of the aircraft next summer surprisingly indicated that as the Antanov-3 was an old aircraft and not worth much effort, that the Russians would leave it "at the South Pole as a Museum for the Americans". The Russian Ambassador confirmed this statement twice so it appears that the US National Science Foundation might now have to add an old Russian Antanov-3 aircraft to their cargo list waiting to be flown off the ice from the South Pole as it is doubted that the aircraft can remain at the South Pole indefinitely.

Dr Chilingarov's assistant at the Russian State Duma,   Konstantine A. Zaitsev was also part of the Expedition acting as the expedition secretary. He discussed several aspects of the expedition with Christchurch based New Zealand Antarctic Society member Klaus Arne Pedersen as shown above. Mr Zaitsev said that there was an intention that Russia would issue a special postage stamp to commemorate the 2002 expedition.


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Klaus Arne Pedersen (left) and Konstantine A. Zaitsev (right) discussing an Antarctic photo file

It appears from other reports carried by "The Press" newspaper in Christchurch (15 January Edition -page one) and on the web site of the Australian based the Antarctican that there may well be further developments of this story as the expedition was planned by the Russians as a demonstration of the Russian ability to function effectively in the Antarctic and as the result has shown otherwise it has cast doubts on current Russian logistic abilities. It seems that Antarctic Science is now being afforded a higher priority by the Russians perhaps largely as the result of the efforts of Dr Artur Chilingarov.

16th January, 2002 update.

An associated Press report from Moscow dated 15th January reports Dr Chilingarov protesting about American efforts to charge his group US$80,000 for the flights from the South Pole to Christchurch.

"There were no discussions about money at all" he said.  Dr Chilingarov said he had contacted the US State Department and the US Antarctic Program after it was realised that the Russian  Antonov-3 aircraft was unuseable and it was agreed to fly his party from the Pole Station to Christchurch.

A representitive for Raytheon, the US Antarctic Support Provider Company, Mr John Sherve was reported as confirming the Russians would be charged US$80,000 for the journey although  Dr. Chilingarov claiming the trip should not be called a rescue operation as they had been flown on regular US Antarctic Program flights.

The AP article also mentioned that the 7 person VIP expedition had originally departed  Moscow receiving a good-luck phone call from President Vladimir Putin and much Russian media attention when they began their South Pole journey.

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