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New Era for Norwegian Antarctic Research


The framework conditions for Norwegian research in Antarctica are completely changing. The Norwegian summer station, Troll, will be a year-round station, and the airstrip beside Troll will soon accommodate intercontinental flights. This will have enormous consequences for Norwegian research.

From February 2005, year-round operations at the Norwegian research station in Antarctica will commence. At the same time, the airstrip will be able to receive heavy intercontinental flights between South Africa and Queen Maud’s Land. Smaller flights can already land on the airstrip out by the blue ice.

Earlier, scientists spent several weeks by boat from South Africa, but now they can fly here in six hours. Then we have year-round operation at Troll, such as all the other six nations having claim on the Antarctic territory besides Norway have, we are sanding before a new era for Norwegian Antarctic research, says Harald Loeng, leader for the Norwegian National Committee for Polar Research.

He leads the Oceanography and Climate research group, part of the Institute of Marine Research. The Norwegian research community has a great presence in the Arctic, and we have several cross-functional research communities that are among the world’s leading in their areas. These functional communities have potential to contribute greatly in the Antarctic. This bi-polar approach gives Norway a unique opportunity to contribute to the comprehensive knowledge exchange between the Arctic and Antarctic, not least of which in comparative studies.

The human dimension” that includes both studies of international politics and maintenance as well as cultural conservation and tourism, is also included. Other themes are atmospheric research, research of greenhouse gasses and the large hole in the ozone layer.

Traditionally Norwegian research in Antarctica was focused on biology, geology, oceanography and glaciology. Some will perhaps say that the new policy document is a very ambitious plan for the Norwegian Antarctic research.

But although we are small, we are not novices within polar research. I think that Norwegian expertise in this area can be better explored with more focus on bi-polar comparative studies. It is the research that should be leading, not the geography. However, we are also standing before new possibilities when it comes to participating in international networking and cross-functional projects.

The new policy will mean a substantial upgrading and changes of Antarctic research. Earlier Antarctic researchers have needed to plan for one season in the field at a time, but the draft of the policy document suggests that the conditions are now right to focus on projects that can last up to four years.

The new logistic situation will also include that research on land and offshore no longer are so dependent on one another. It opens the way for more flexible activities in both areas, besides opening new climate and eco-system models as well as an approach to models that will combine existing and new knowledge and different types of data,” says the leader for the national committee.

Thomas Evensen | alfa
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