Polar Shift

Belarus plans to have research station in Antarctica
The first Belarusian scientific expedition has returned from Antarctica. The Belarusian scientists managed to collect unique materials that are very likely to become the basis for the first ever Belarusian south polar station.

The key task of the expedition was reconnaissance operations in order to be able to find the best location for the research station. So far eleven Antarctic oases have been explored to find a place with the mildest climate for the Belarusian machinery. These oases are far from being the traditional paradisiacal spots on maps, and look like ordinary rocks that have broken through ice.

— The best option would be to find a site that would allow building a runway for large transport aircraft, said the leader of the expedition, Vladimir Tyshkevich.

— Belarus has no icebreakers, and air transport appears to be the only way to deliver goods to the station. Another important thing is a glacial lake with drinkable water nearby. We might use a site of the deserted Russian research station — this will save resources and allow polar explorers to live in comfort.

Belarus will have to spend millions of dollars to build the station and life support systems. This investment will of course pay off, Vladimir Tyshkevich is certain. — First of all, the country will get a quota on Antarctic resources by exploring the coldest continent, the scientist said. — What sort of resources? There are many of them — Ukraine was granted a couple of fishing grounds near Antarctica, and Japan was allowed to hunt whales for its contribution to the exploration of Antarctica. Any country may have benefits from its scientific work. Belarus might deal with air pollution there — a “strong point” for this country as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol. We are now “importing” the information about air pollution from other countries, which are bound to present distorted statistics. To have our own true figures means to be able to carry out independent research Another promising direction is prospecting of mineral resources, which are immense in Antarctica. The scientific potential of research in Antarctica is even greater.

In other words, if Belarusians build a polar station and carry out systematic research they will be able to stake a “patch” of Antarctica and collect dividends. The so-called Antarctic moratorium, which made the coldest continent a neutral territory, expires in 2009, and it is not clear what will happen later. Many countries of the world will love to have a piece of frozen pie, and Belarus will certainly be there to make its claims. This country has both human and scientific resources, so the financial aspect remains the key issue. The materials and proposals of the polar expedition will soon be submitted to the top administration of the country, and if the answer is positive, the first Belarusian Antarctic shift will go south as early as this November.

by Dmitri Tichonowitsch
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