We are generally a bunch of law-and-order types here at Commonplace Fun Facts, and we cannot condone the wanton violation of the law. That being said, there are times when even the most extreme acts of violence might be justified. For that reason, we cannot feel particularly outraged about Antarctica’s only case of attempted murder. It was, after all, done in response to one of the most heinous acts imaginable: spoiling the ending of a good book.
The event in question took place in 2018 at Russia’s Bellingshausen Station on King George Island, 568 miles (914 km) south of the southern tip of South America) and 90 miles (145 km) from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The largest of the South Shetland Islands, King George Island is in the middle of spring in October. Although blessed with an average of 14 hours of daylight, the climate isn’t what most of us would consider “springlike.” The average temperature in October ranges from a high of 30.4 F (-0.9 C) to an average low of 23.5 F (-4.7 C).
In such an unforgiving climate as Antarctica and with a population of about 500, distributed among several research stations, the importance of maintaining good psychological health cannot be overstated. Desirable habits include nurturing healthy hobbies such as reading and working hard toward conflict resolution. A person’s smallest quirk can quickly be perceived as an intolerable personality defect in these conditions.
Electrical engineer Sergei Savitsky and welder Oleg Beloguzov had been working together for four years. The health of their relationship steadily declined over that period.
The steadily-rising tensions between the two men reached a snapping point when Savitsky snatched a kitchen knife and stabbed Beloguzov. Word of the attack quickly spread throughout the island, sending shockwaves throughout the community of scientific researchers. Beloguzov was airlifted to Chile for emergency medical treatment. Fortunately, he survived the vicious attack.
Savitsky was taken into custody and returned to Russia, where he was charged with attempted murder — the first such crime to occur in Antarctica.
What was it that put the distinguished engineer over the edge? It turns out Savitsky had finally had it with his colleague’s propensity to blurt out the endings to whatever book Savitsky was reading.
Beloguzov spoiled a good book for Savitsky on that day, and it was not the first time this happened. Savitsky was determined it would be the last time, however.
Fortunately, this whole sorry fiasco had a relatively happy ending. Savitsky’s trial was scheduled for the following February 8. Before it happened, however, the two adversaries sat together and talked through their disagreements. At the conclusion of their meeting, Beloguzov informed the court that he had reconciled with Savitsky and filed a motion to dismiss the charges. The court agreed.
While the story has a happy ending, as far as the relationship between the two former adversaries goes, Savitsky was less optimistic about the prospects for his future employment. As reported in this article from 47news, Savitsky lamented, “Who needs a man brandishing a knife in Antarctica?” He asked the reporter, “So would you begin to keep such a person in your editorial office?”
The answer to his question remains to be answered. Goodness knows we wouldn’t want to risk what might happen if we spoil the ending.