Brazil to open research base in Antarctica

Brazil plans to reopen a substantially improved version of its only Antarctic research station, which burned down killing two people in February last year, a conference has heard.

The bigger and more modern facilities at the Comandante Ferraz base will open in the Antarctic summer of 2014-2015, as part of a drive to expand Brazil’s Antarctic research, the 24th Meeting of Latin American Managers of Antarctic Programmes (RAPAL), in La Serena, Chile.

“The new station will have 19 laboratories with cutting-edge technology, which will mean an important increase in Antarctic research and the development of new capacities,” Marcos Silva Rodrigues, manager of the Brazilian Antarctic Programme and secretary of the Inter-ministerial Commission for the Resources of the Sea, tells SciDev.Net.

The fire destroyed about 70 per cent of it, including installations that scientists were using to study the effects of climate change, the atmosphere, and coastal and marine ecosystems. Samples taken in the 2011-2012 summer season (November to March) were also lost.

Material damage was calculated at US$12.4 million and around 40 per cent of the Brazilian research programme was affected.

The 2,400 square-metre base was fully dismantled in two months, with more than 800 tonnes of iron and debris shipped to Brazil and 60,000 cubic metres of ice and snow removed, said Silva Rodrigues.

But he says that research activities have carried on.

“All the projects have continued and, moreover, the average of 150-160 researchers per season increased to 200 in the 2012-2013 summer season thanks to the commitment of the Brazilian navy to transport more scientists,” he says

Source: Paula Leighton | SciDev.Net