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
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runs to the ice each season
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'."
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