Wednesday, October 9, 2013

US's Antarctic Big Chill

Hundreds of US scientists in Antarctica may be evacuated, as funding dries up in Washington's continuing government shutdown.
A decision's due by the end of this week and, if scientists are pulled out, it'll be a disaster for their research.
US has three major bases: McMurdo Station (next to NZ's Scott Base), Amundsen-Scott at the South Pole, and Palmer on the Antarctic Peninsula. Any shutdown by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) will have a severe impact on Christchurch-based
C-17 Globemaster: dozens of supply
runs to the ice each season

Antarctica NZ which shares facilities and the vast logistics associated with the summer programme. An official says so far the US govt shutdown hasn't affected the NZ programme in Antarctica: "...but we are following the US situation and keeping in close contact with our partners at the NSF and their McMurdo Station."
Lockheed Martin, which runs the NSF's Antarctic operations, says it will run out of money by mid-October, and may be forced to evacuate all but a skeleton staff at the bases. That would spell the end to this year's research season, which normally runs from October-February. Personnel have only recently begun to be flown down to the ice for the new season. Lockheed: "We're in major planning mode to begin an orderly transition to caretaker mode at the stations."
Researchers are devastated at the prospect of losing an entire field season of work. John Priscu, a Montana State Uni biologist who's been to Antarctica about 30 times, says if the programme is put in caretaker mode, it'll be hard to reverse the situation quickly: "In Antarctica the planning is so intense...scheduling military aircraft and icebreakers. The planning goes on years ahead. You can't just throw a switch and say, 'OK, we're better now'."
Business Class to Antarctica...4,000km and no in-flight movie!

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