Brazilian Navy Ships Participate in 36th Antarctic Operation

Brazilian Navy Ships Participate in 36th Antarctic Operation

By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo
January 05, 2018

The 36th edition of Operation Antarctic (OPERANTAR, in Portuguese), ongoing until March 2018, is part of the Brazilian Antarctic Program that started in 1982 with support from the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese). Research is the mission’s main goal.

Two MB vessels participate in the operation: the oceanographic support vessel (NApOc, in Portuguese) Ary Rongel and the polar vessel (NPo, in Portuguese) Almirante Maximiano. NApOc Ary Rongel arrived in Antarctica October 2017 with 107 people aboard—the first delegation of OPERANTAR 2017—including service members and researchers.

NPo Almirante Maximiano left Rio de Janeiro November 10th, en route to the frozen continent with 72 service members, two Merchant Marine trainees, and five researchers. On the morning of November 18th, as it sailed near the coast of Argentina, the crew learned about the missing Argentine submarine ARA San Juan.

NPo Almirante Maximiano joined the international search efforts for the submarine. In about 13 hours, the Brazilian ship arrived to the search area, reported to the Argentine Navy logistics support vessel ARA Patagonia, and began the search and rescue operation, said to Diálogo MB Captain Geraldo Juaçaba, special advisor for the reconstruction of Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station.

The 79-person crew aboard NPo Almirante Maximiano contributed to search efforts throughout the ship’s involvement in the operation. On November 27th, the Argentine Navy dismissed the Brazilian ship from the mission, allowing it to resume its course to Antarctica. On November 30th, the Argentine Navy called off rescue efforts for the crew. Search efforts for the missing submarine would continue.

International treaty

With laboratories and oceanographic equipment aboard, the NApOc Ary Rongel and NPo Almirante Maximiano serve as research platforms in OPERANTAR. In addition, the vessels transport scientists seeking to set up camps and shelters in the Antarctic region for their studies.

Notable among researchers’ activities are studies on biodiversity, the Antarctic ecosystem, and climate change in the region as well as its global effects. Research also focuses on oceanography, glaciology, and geology. As such, scientists collect water and seabed samples, study birds, observe weather and movement of water masses in the region, among others.

“In addition to developing our fields of science, we also show our nation’s flag in Antarctica,” MB Captain Antônio Braz de Souza, commander of the NApOc Ary Rongel, said in an interview with Brazilian radio station Radioagência Nacional. Brazil—like Argentina, Chile, and the United States—is one of 53 nations to join the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The document sets international rules for the continent and ensures its use for peaceful purposes.

“According to Article IV of the Antarctic Treaty, for a nation to maintain its consultative status with voting power and be able to decide the future of Antarctica, the treaty member nation must carry out quality research in the Antarctic region,” the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication (MCTIC, in Portuguese) told Diálogo. Scientific activities during OPERANTAR 2017, which takes place during the Antarctic summer between October 2017 and March 2018, total 25 field research projects. “All projects include different graduate courses and postgraduate programs, represent high-level human resource training for Brazilian science, and contribute scientific and technological advances for Brazil,” the MCTIC press office stated.

Antarctic Station

During OPERANTAR 2017, MB service members also provide logistics support for the Antarctic Emergency Modules and work on rebuilding Brazil’s station in the white continent. The structures were installed temporarily in Antarctica after a fire damaged the station in February 2012. The 45 modules serve as lodgings and laboratories on a roughly 940-square-meter area.

Foundations for the main building at the new Brazilian station are already set. Assembly of structures to complete the project started in November 2017. Once completed, the new Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station will count 226 containers.

As construction work can only take place during Antarctica’s summer, all work will be put on hold in March 2018, when the NApOc Ary Rongel and NPo Almirante Maximiano return to Brazil. Reconstruction efforts will resume in October. “The opening of the new Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station will depend on how the construction work progresses, given the region’s hostile climate. We hope to be able to open it in 2018,” Capt. Juaçaba concluded.