Argentine Armed Forces Support Summer Antarctic Campaign

Argentine Armed Forces Support Summer Antarctic Campaign

By Dialogo
March 09, 2016




More than 1,000 Military officials and scientists are participating in the Summer Antarctic Campaign 2015-2016, an annual mission to resupply the 13 Argentine research bases on the white continent and support their scientific programs. The effort is being led by Navy Commodore Marcelo Tarapow, Argentina’s Naval Antarctic Commander and Joint Antarctic Commander.

“Every year, there are Argentines living in Antarctica who await our arrival,” said Commodore Tarapow in an email interview with Dialógo
from aboard the polar vessel Vasily Golovnin. “They trust that (we) will bring them supplies and replacements. That is a trust we can never betray.”

Diálogo:
What are the responsibilities of the Joint Antarctic Command?

Navy Commodore Marcelo Tarapow:
Leading and conducting naval, land, and air operations to support personnel and supply the permanent Antarctic bases so that they can fulfill their summer or winter missions. We also need to deploy, sustain, and subsequently dismantle the transitional summer bases and science camps. We conduct surveys and repair Argentina’s Antarctic shelters and beacons. We also provide support for foreign programs, such as those from Bulgaria, Uruguay, Colombia, Peru, and the Czech Republic.

Diálogo:
What vehicles and materials are being used in the Summer Antarctic Campaign 2015-2016?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
This year we are employing five ships for different tasks, four of which belong to the Argentine Navy and the fifth was leased through international competitive bidding. These are the Canal Beagle transport ship, the Puerto Deseado oceanographic vessel (operating under the Naval Hydrographic Service, conducting hydrographic and bathymetric tasks), the Suboficial Castillo dispatch ship (operating under the Southern Naval Area, conducting the Joint Naval Antarctic Patrol with Chile) and the Islas Malvinas dispatch ship, all of which belong to the Argentine Navy. As for the aircraft, we have two Hercules C-130, a Twin Otter, an MI17 helicopter, and a Bell 212 helicopter, all of which belong to our Air Force.

Diálogo:
How many Troops are involved in the campaign?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
In total 1,000 people are participating, if we count the crews of the five ships, helicopters and aircraft that are being deployed in Antarctica and the personnel at the bases. The team of scientists and technicians includes around 400 people. On board the Golovnin, we are 90 in total. This ship carries the largest amount of the cargo being shipped to the Antarctic bases.

Diálogo:
What tasks are currently being performed?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
The tasks include the logistical resupply of the six permanent bases that Argentina has in Antarctica, which operate all year round (Orcadas, San Martín, Carlini, Esperanza, Belgrano II and Marambio) and seven temporary bases, which are only used during the Antarctic summer months (Matienzo, Petrel, Brown, Primavera, Cámara, Decepción and Melchior). We are carrying a little more than 7,000 drums of Antarctic gas oil, JP1 fuel for aircraft, premium gasoline and oil, 800 cubic meters of Antarctic gas oil in bulk, 1,010 gas pipes, 215 cubic meters of refrigerated cargo, 168 cubic meters of dry goods, 90 cubic meters [of] antechamber, and about 2,073 cubic meters of general cargo, which includes building materials, paints, wood, clothing, cleaning supplies, medicines, vehicles, electronic equipment, and furniture. In addition, we will remove 2,554 cubic meters of waste of various types that is produced as a result of the work and accommodations on the white continent.

Diálogo:
How does the Antarctic Campaign benefit Argentina and other countries?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
The triangular section between the 25th West and 74th West meridians and the 60th South parallel, reaching to the South Pole, delimits Argentine Antarctica. And different tasks – scientific, beaconing, mapping, meteorological, and glaciological, just to name a few – are the added value necessary for the consolidation of our rights. In addition, the Antarctic programs carried out by the different nations allow for a better understanding of the world in which we live. Knowledge of ocean currents, glaciology, meteorology, climate, biology, botany, and the thinning of the ozone layer, for example, is necessary not only for understanding Antarctica’s past and present but also to understand its balance and probable future.

Diálogo:
What studies are conducted at the Argentine bases that are made possible by the Military's support?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
On the bases, programs are conducted in accordance with the geographical characteristics and associated ecosystems. There are projects studying different types of flying birds and penguins, sea lions, seals, elephant seals, whales, fish, algae, lichens, plankton and phytoplankton. There are also studies into the changes in human behavior and physiology in high-insolation conditions, circadian cycles, changing conditions, and duration of days with light and polar nights. Also important is the research into meteorology, the upper atmosphere, the ozone, ionization, glaciology, and the environment. Argentina has a rich background and tradition in most of these fields of study.

Diálogo:
Argentina has 13 bases in Antarctica, including both permanent and temporary bases. Could you tell us a little about them?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
The Orcadas Base, which is supported by the Argentine Navy, is the oldest permanent human settlement in all of Antarctica. Since Argentina took over on February 22, 1904, it has always been inhabited and waved our flag. Hence, that date has become National Antarctica Day for Argentina. We have families living at the Esperanza Base and a school operates there throughout the entire year. The first Antarctic Argentines were also born there.

Diálogo:
Has any particular base caught your attention during this campaign?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
I was able to appreciate the true potential that the Petrel Base has to be developed into a logistics hub in combination with Ushuaia. Built by the Argentine Navy in 1967, Petrel has a natural plateau where Navy aircraft have operated. Recent studies allowed for the development of a runway capable of handling Boeing commercial aircraft, as well as a pier. This base is now a joint operation with the other Armed Forces, and I hope that science will also find its place there. I have no doubt that we should pay special attention to the development of the Petrel base, as it holds great geostrategic value. Our future in Antarctica will depend, in large part, on the effort we focus on Petrel.

Diálogo:
When does this Summer Antarctic Campaign end?

Navy Commodore Tarapow:
The campaign will end on March 26th with the arrival of Canal Beagle transport ship at its home port in Buenos Aires, where it will unload all the material and garbage removed from Antarctica.
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