Re­prieve for Aussie sub-Antarc­tic sta­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralia’s per­ma­nent sub-Antarc­tic re­search base at World Her­itage-listed Mac­quarie Is­land has won a re­prieve from clo­sure and will in­stead get a multi-mil­lion dol­lar re­vamp, the gov­ern­ment said Fri­day, in a boost for science. The Aus­tralian Antarc­tic Divi­sion an­nounced in Septem­ber the sta­tion on the is­land - which lies in the South­ern Ocean be­tween Aus­tralia and Antarc­tica - would shut af­ter al­most seven decades due to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­tam­i­na­tion con­cerns and age­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

But af­ter pres­sure from sci­en­tists and politi­cians, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Josh Fry­den­berg said it will now get a new state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity with the gov­ern­ment an­nounc­ing a Aus$50 mil­lion (US$37.8 mil­lion) fund­ing boost. “The new sta­tion will be the most ad­vanced of its type in the South­ern Ocean, ca­pa­ble of sup­port­ing the full range of pri­or­ity ac­tiv­i­ties we have con­ducted in the past and to en­sure a per­ma­nent and re­cur­ring year round pres­ence,” he said. “The new mod­ern sta­tion will be sig­nif­i­cantly more ef­fi­cient than the ex­ist­ing sta­tion and be de­signed to have min­i­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact, lower op­er­at­ing and main­te­nance costs.”

Due to its po­si­tion as the only base be­tween Aus­tralia and Antarc­tica, Mac­quarie Is­land is an im­por­tant global mon­i­tor­ing lo­ca­tion for sci­en­tific re­search, in­clud­ing track­ing south­ern hemi­sphere weather and gath­er­ing cli­matic data. Around 15 re­searchers man the base year-round, ris­ing to 30 in the sum­mer. Named af­ter an early gover­nor of New South Wales state, Lach­lan Mac­quarie, a sci­en­tific pres­ence dates back to Dou­glas Maw­son’s base there dur­ing the 1911-14 Aus­tralasian Antarc­tic ex­pe­di­tion. Home to mil­lions of pen­guins and up to 80,000 seals, it was de­clared a wildlife sanc­tu­ary in 1933 with the per­ma­nent base set up 15 years later. Since then re­search on the is­land has con­trib­uted to global un­der­stand­ing in many fields in­clud­ing cli­mate change, marine bi­ol­ogy, at­mos­phere physics, geo­science and me­te­o­rol­ogy.

Wildlife Bas­tion

The AAD ad­mit­ted in an­nounc­ing the fa­cil­ity’s clo­sure that science would be im­pacted, but ar­gued that the cost of re­fur­bish­ment could not be jus­ti­fied and there would still be ship vis­its for re­searchers in sum­mer. But the de­ci­sion sparked a pub­lic cam­paign backed by the Tas­ma­nian-based Bob Brown Foun­da­tion to save the base. “Mac­quarie Is­land is one of the world’s great wildlife bas­tions with its count­less thou­sands of pen­guins, seals and al­ba­tross, it is un­der pres­sure from tourism and il­le­gal fish poach­ers as well as cli­mate change,” Brown, a for­mer leader of the Greens Party, said yes­ter­day. “The min­is­ter has made the right de­ci­sion.” — AFP

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