KING GEORGE ISLAND, Antarctica (AP) — Sophrony Kirilov pulls hard on the strings of the heavy Russian bells from inside the world's southernmost Eastern Orthodox church, calling to anybody who wants to pray on this remote Antarctic island.
The 38-year-old Russian priest is clad in a loose black robe and a vest dotted with patches of penguins and seals, marking his four years of service at the bottom of the world.
Kirilov says there is no place he feels closer to God than in this frigid land.
"In the world, there's no tranquility and silence. But here, it's quiet enough," Kirilov says at the Holy Trinity Church.
The small wooden building is perched precariously on a rocky hill above a smattering of prefabricated houses for scientists and service workers who call this frozen continent home, at least part of the year.
The grayish clapboard church was first built in Russia from Siberian cedar planks treated to withstand the frosts and harsh wind. In 2004, it was disassembled and shipped log-by-log to Antarctica.
In the summer, tourists and the staff of the international stations leave their snowy, muddy boots at the entrance and pray in silence. During Sunday service, Kirilov reads from the scriptures in Russian and sings in an angelic voice.
"Here, you can calmly pray to God in peace and quiet," says the priest. "Sure, you can do it anywhere in Russia, but here, it's special."