Bringing Antarctic interests together

The world event of Antarctic science and logistics came to Hobart last July with the first joint meeting of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP).

Some 900 delegates from around the world converged on Hobart for a range of business meetings, the SCAR Open Science Conference – on the broad theme Antarctica in the Earth System – and a concurrent symposium of COMNAP’s advisory committee – the Standing Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations (SCALOP) – which addressed the theme Going forward together, efficiently and safely.

Australian Government Antarctic Division scientists were well represented at the SCAR and SCALOP events. Of some 625 talks and posters presented during the week the Division contributed 15 (24%) of the 62 SCALOP presentations and 89 (13%) of more than 560 SCAR presentations. Overall, Australia was responsible for approximately 30% of the presentation effort.

The SCAR Open Science Conference covered 45 themes, including evolution, climate, glaciology, atmospherics, astronomy, marine ecosystems, ecology, geology, environmental impacts, human health and oceanography. Keynote speakers also provided an overview of each of SCAR’s five recently established scientific research programmes.

The SCALOP symposium featured talks on safety and new directions in stations, infrastructure, shipping and energy reduction. Leading international oil expert, Dr Ali Samsam Bakhtiari of the University of Tehran, painted a worrying picture of the inevitable decline in oil production and rising fuel prices. A number of lightweight, energy efficient station designs were also previewed, including the British Antarctic Survey’s replacement for Halley V, which will be the first Antarctic station on skis.

COMNAP delegates also participated in a range of working groups and workshops covering shipping, air transport, energy management, medicine, environmental issues, tourism, expeditioner training, waste management, incident reporting, and safety. Over the coming year COMNAP agreed to develop a range of initiatives including an information paper on contingency planning and emergency response, reducing the environmental footprint in Antarctica, and a working paper on best practice energy management. Throughout the year working groups will also focus on supporting initiatives to enhance hydrographic surveys of Antarctic waters, conducting a workshop on improved weather forecasting in Antarctica, developing guidelines for training, response to emergencies and fuel handling and storage, and taking advantage of communications technologies such as Iridium telephony.

The combined meetings provided delegates with an important opportunity to discuss future collaborative ventures as they approach the start of the International Polar Year in March 2007. The following pages provide a snapshot of some of the topics covered at the meetings by the Australian Government Antarctic Division and other Antarctic institutions.