Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Lithuanian Footprints in the South Pole

For Lithuanian version press here.

Lithuania is a tiny country with small population. Anyway, you will find them everywhere on this planet.  I have tried to trace the footprints of Lithuanians in Antarctica and it was surprising to me.

Lithuanians are proud of the mount Kosciuszko in Australia, which is named under one of our heroes Tadeausz Kosciuszko (The famous Poland-Lithuanian warrior of 18th century). But very few Lithuanians would even know that one coast in Antarctica is named under Lithuanian, too. Have you heard anything about Bakutis? Bakutis left not only his footprint in the snow of Antarctica, but wrote his name on its map. Bakutis coast is in Merry Berd land now. Anyway, he was not the one, who first brought Lithuanian flag to the South Pole. Is there any Lithuanian, who did it? Yes, and it was surprise to me. I knew him before. He is famous businessman and one of the richest Lithuanians – Arvydas Avulis. He flew towards the South Pole, but last 111 kms he had to walk to bring Lithuanian flag to the South Pole. Now we have more enthusiasts from Lithuania, who are training, dreaming and making plans for expeditions in cold Antarctica. 


<...> my father always thought us – you always have to find things you like to do, it doesn't meter, where you are“ - the son of cardinal Fred E. Bakutis

Cardinal Fred E. Bakutis
Photo from 
Thanks for my professor of Indian history, Diana Mickevičienė, for sharing the information about Bakutis. I would never have thought to check if there is any geographical object in Antarctica named under Lithuanian surname. Fred E. Bakutis was American of Lithuanian roots. His mother was from Poland and father Frank was born in Lithuania. Bakutis did his M. A. in U. S. Naval Academy. Later, he studied in Naval War College (U. S. institution doing researches on naval war strategies). Bakutis proved himself in one of the biggest sea battles of 20th century in Pacific Ocean. His survival story was travelling mouth to mouth for a long time. His plane was shoot, but he managed to land safely on the water. He got ready his lifeboat, while the plane was sinking. Bakutis spent seven days in this boat until he was rescued by U. S. aircraft carrier “Hardhead” team. Bakutis, also, was part of the famous “Apollo”missions. 

But how does his name relate with Antarctica? In 1960 Bakutis was assigned to Operation "Deep Freeze" in late 1960's. He next took command of the U. S. Naval Support Forces in the Arctic and Antarctic. He, also, was responsible for foundation and development of USA meteorological stations in the South Pole. The last time Bakutis visited the South Pole was 1966, when he dropped the post and food for the scholars staying in American stations. The coast in memory of cardinal Bakutis was named by the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names. This coast now is a part of Merry Berd land.

After his retirement till his death in 2009, Bakutis lived in Hawaii, Oahu land. He initiated navy base closure in Oahu island. Since than fishermen and surfers are enjoying the sea. By the way, Bakutis also was passionate surfer till his 80's.

From: Aviacijos Pasaulis, Nr. 2 (217), 2013.


Imagine, that you are travelling on a big white table, where is no landmark – there's nothing at all, only snow and sky. You would get upset with thoughts, that you are heading on wrong direction! And just let these thought inside your head, that you are on the wrong way... (A. Avulis, cit. from

Arvydas Avulis is well know businessman in Lithuania. Anyway, very few people know, that he is first Lithuanian, who reached the South Pole.

It was not a regular trip, when you buy and ticket and fly. It took 5 years for A. Avulis to get ready for this trip. At that time A. Avulis couldn't find any other Lithuanian, who wanted to travel with him. So, he decided to join Russian travellers. Unfortunately, once they reached Antarctica, The Union Glacier Camp, the weather was bad and traveller was stuck in library. But one happy day pilot agreed to fly. On 8th of December in 2010, Avulis landed in the South Pole. They had to walk 111 kms to reach the middle of the South Pole. The first impression of Arvydas Avulis was strong wind, lack of oxygen (The South Pole is on 3000 meters altitude) and loneliness. “When we took off the plane, wind was stronger than in base camp. No mountains, no shelter from the wind. It was only three of us in vast expanse. Where-ever you look, it was only horizon, white everywhere. I felt loneliness, because there was no chance to meet other people” (cit. from Lietuvos Rytas) On 14th of December in 2010, 99 years after Norwegian Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, A. Avulis brought Lithuanian tricolour flag there.

After Avulis came back from Antarctica, everyday life became easier – commented A. Avulis to journalist from newspaper Lietuvos Rytas. The businessman feels stronger even in taking decisions in his work. He doesn't have the slightest doubt, that emotions and experience of the journey, which required lots of physical and financial resources, will last forever. (from Lietuvos Rytas )

Why did he go to South Pole? I think, it was his adventurous travellers soul, his resolve and curiosity, which took him to challenge himself. In interview with traveller told, that this trip was the other step towards biggest aim of his life – to know better yourself.

More about A. Avulis adventure read here and here.    


"Travel is not only for you, not only to satisfy your ambitions. For me the most important is to convey the feelings and experience to others. Maybe my conquered challenges will inspire others to try something new, not necessarily something extreme. It might be changes in personal or professional life" – A. Kuras (from 15 min.

Lithuanians crossing Baltic sea
Photo from Poliarines ekspedicijos
After doing a research on those, who visited the South Pole, I decided to take a look, who is going to. The first link I found on internet was Facebook page „Poliarinės ekpedicijos“ (eng. Polar expeditions). The page was full of white pictures with snow, ice, and sky. Let me introduce the company of friends, who travel in extreme conditions without any support. For travelling they chose not comfortable sunny destinations with luxury hotels next to sea, but cold weather, snow, ice, skies, sledges and tents. They did first polar trip to the Kola Peninsula with Vilnius University hikers club. Trip was organised by Rolandas Jakstys. Two of their amassing trips, crossing the Baltic Sea and crossing the biggest island Greenland, were published in Lithuanian newspaper. Crossing Baltic sea is historical for Lithuanian travellers, while they were the first Lithuanians, who did that. The third big trip is in their plans and it is Antarctica. When I asked him, when do they plan to go, he relied: "The man plans and gods laugh". Everything is ready, they have team, equipment and experience. The only think they don't have is money. Well, at the moment, they are going to Greenland this March. All the best for your journey!

The idea, which touched me the most from the reading about their journeys, was A. Kuras philosophy and attitudes towards extreme conditions. It is important to learn to live with extreme conditions, instead of fighting and trying to conquer it. You cannot change cold or strong wind. „These hard moments do not cause any stress at all. You just need to have a sense. One British expedition of two person, who travelled with better equipment than we did, finished their journey without any luck – their finger of palms and feet had been frozen, without finishing their expedition they were evacuated with helicopter. Later they wrote, they had tried to fight the cold. Exactly, you cannot fight, because this is unchangeable". - shared his experience A. Kuras with journalists from 15 min (cit. iš 15 min)

I asked Kuras if he had to sacrifice some opportunities, because of his polar expeditions. He agreed that he had to reject some offers, studies and some really good opportunities. But he never regrets. Those, who really wants, will find the way.

Picture from Poliarines ekpedicijos
Why do these travellers choose this type of travelling? In conference with 15 min, A. Kuras told, that he gets rest from civilisation, people and work, he leaves the word behind and 100 % he is with himself. „This is like meditation, when you meet yourself. After such trip, you come back fresh, with no debts and resigned with current situation. Your soul and body synchronise together“ - after trip to Greenland told A. Kuras to 15min (cit. from 15 min) As well, as the mentioned above, Kuras wants to encourage others to do changes in their lives.

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