Attractive ice continent
By Olga Belova
“The scale of future studies depends on financing, deciding whether we’ll simply have a scientific presence or take part more actively, including via independent expeditions,” explains the Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Mikhail Myasnikovich. The state programme — Monitoring the Polar Regions of the Earth and Supporting the Activity of Arctic and Antarctic Expeditions from 2011-2015 — envisaged the possibility of conducting new scientific studies on the ice continent but it’s yet to be decided whether Belarusian polar researchers shall go to the Antarctic this year. The issue is being studied by the Government; according to Mr. Myasnikovich, ‘the issue is not yet finally settled’.
It seems likely that Belarusian polar researchers won’t join the Russian Antarctic expedition at the initial stage of travelling to the Antarctic on the ‘Academician Fedorov’ ship but may join their Russian colleagues in Cape Town, jointly reaching the Antarctic on an Il-76 plane. Negotiations are underway.
It was previously expected that Russia would give the Vechernyaya Mountain field camp to Belarus (where Belarusian specialists have worked in recent years). Talks have taken place, with an intergovernmental Belarusian-Russian agreement on co-operation in the Antarctic leading the way, but arrangements are yet to be finalised.
If Belarus plans to become a consultative party within the Antarctic Treaty and participate in decision making regarding vital issues relating to the continent, it must continue its scientific-research work there. At present, the southern continent of the Earth is a zone for science and research, with mining of mineral deposits prohibited but, in a few decades’ time, the ice continent may be divided for profit. Being rich in mineral resources, including hydrocarbons and uranium, it has great value. The leading states of the globe expand their research here. At present, 48 countries have joined the Antarctic Treaty, with 29 acting as consultative parties.