Not long ago, Belarusian Antarctic explorers ce-lebrated a housewarming, thanking their Russian colleagues for helping them build a modern research station. Transport operations were complex, with modules taken, initially, by ocean and then by helicopter, from the ship to the land. The Russians also helped assemble the module, often working bare handed at minus 20 degrees, under extremely windy conditions. Extra modules can later be added to the polar station, with a small scientific town eventually planned.
The continuation of the station’s construction became a focus of attention at a recent meeting of Union State polar mission heads, held in Minsk. Results of the past research season were discussed and, importantly, prospects of cooperation for late 2016 and early 2017 were discussed. The Deputy Head of the Republican Centre of Polar Research at Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences, Alexey Gaidashov, who also heads the Belarusian Antarctic expedition, joined the Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Arctic and Antarctic, Valery Lukin, who also heads the Russian Antarctic expedition. They have agreed to link the programmes of the forthcoming 9th Belarusian and 62nd Russian missions, with a Union State expedition scheduled for autumn 2016.
Other sections of the Belarusian Antarctic station are being delivered, once again, by Russia’s Academician Fiodorov ship, alongside Belarusian fuel, diverse research equipment and food: a total of around 40 tonnes of cargo. Six Belarusian polar explorers will also travel on the ship for the 9th mission, one more than was sent for the 8th expedition. They will primarily need to learn how to assemble the metal constructions of the station’s additional sections. Departure from St. Petersburg is planned for November and, in December, the ship will arrive in Antarctica, with practical works beginning soon after, close to Molodezhnaya station.
Mr. Gaidashov stresses the inter-state importance of such collaboration, saying, “The intergovernmental Belarusian-Russian agreement on cooperation in Antarctica, signed in 2013, has come a new fulcrum. We now annually realise joint scientific, logistical and environmental programmes, achieving more than we would individually.”
During the previous expedition, Belarusian researchers studied across five areas, including the physical characteristics of the atmosphere and the ozone layer, local flora and fauna, and samples of water and air. From this, our Belarusian researchers are now preparing Candidate degree papers, and the country`s first Doctoral degree work on a polar theme is being prepared. All these results are available to Russian colleagues.
Speaking of how Russians assess their cooperation with Belarusian scientists, Mr. Lukin notes, “We’re interested in using Belarusian equipment to study ultra-violet radiation. Russia is developing large scale projects for the Mars mission and construction of a lunar observatory; in both cases, powerful ultraviolet radiation will be present. We need to learn in advance how it will affect humans and materials. This can be best done in the Antarctic, as all the energy of the solar wind converges at the South Pole. We feel certain that there will be other areas of cooperation.”
The famous polar researcher has praised Belarus’ Antarctic studies, noting that cooperation between the Union State partners has already achieved serious results. Mr. Lukin believes the Belarusian Antarctic station fully meets international requirements; to ensure successful studies, its construction should be completed.
Belarusian and Russian Antarctic researchers have agreed to meet in September, in St. Petersburg, to outline the terms of the Academician Fiodorov’s loading and departure, in addition to other aspects of cooperation.