MONTEVIDEO – A crew from the Uruguayan Antarctic Institute (IAU), along with a contingent of scientists from such countries as Spain and South Africa, set off this Tuesday from Montevideo toward the South Pole to begin the 2019/2020 Antarctica Campaign, and will stay there for a whole year.
Traveling with the expedition will be around 10 people who make up this year’s team, as well as a few divers, a dozen researchers and personnel from Uruguay’s state electric company UTE and the state telecom company Antel, the president of the Uruguayan Antarctic Institute, Manuel Burgos, told Efe.
In that way, the IAU kicks off the first phase of the Southern Hemisphere Summer Campaign, which will go on until April and will carry out the scientific, technological and logistic projects planned for this year.
The Spanish National Research Council’s Andres Barbosa is one of the scientists who will stay 10 days at the Artigas Antarctic Scientific Base (BCAA) on King George Island to determine the effects of tourism and shipping on the penguin population, as part of a joint Spain-Uruguay project.
Barbosa told Efe that the data obtained will be shared with researchers from other countries in order to reach decisions on protecting the marine environment and establishing fishing quotas, for which all-around cooperation is “essential.”
The scientist, who is visiting Antarctica for the 14th time, said that preparing for a trip like this requires “patience and calm” and above all, “a lot of dreams and passion about working there.”
At the same time, his South African companion from Nelson Mandela University, Amanda Lombard, looked rather nervous since this will be her first stint at the South Pole.
“I told all my friends, my schoolmates...everyone got very excited so I invented an automatic answer on my e-mail that says: ‘Leave me alone, I’m in Antarctica,’” she joked.
After a six-hour flight on the Hercules C-130 aircraft of the Uruguayan air force to Punta Arenas in southern Chile, the expedition will reach Antarctica this Wednesday.
In the field of logistics, the BCAA installations are in for a maintenance overhaul, particularly with regard to the electricity and telecom plants, facilities the IAU president particularly noted because there is “a communications system for mobile phones and Internet” that allows them to work as if they were “in Uruguay.”
The Antarkos XXXVI crew under the command of Col. Emilio Obelar will take over from the team that has been on duty between 2018-2019.
The BCAA was inaugurated in December 1984 and was fully equipped by December 1985, after which the IAU has never stopped sending expeditions there.