Environmentally-friendly Swedish station minimises impact on Antarctica

Australian participation in the 2001–02 Swedish expedition to Dronning Maud Land provided an opportunity to see one of Antarctica’s most innovative low-impact station designs, Wasa station on Basen Nunatuk, 120km inland. The visit aimed to facilitate information exchange between the two Antarctic programs with emphasis on environmental management practices.

The 2001–02 Dronning Maud Land expedition was termed ‘light-weight'. It was deployed via aircraft with minimal cargo and used skidoos as the main form of transport in the field. The group of 11 — expedition leader, doctor, three scientists, logistics expert, technician, glacier safety expert, environmental chemist, photographer and myself, as the Australian representative — was flown on an Illyushin 76 from Cape Town to Novolazarevskaya and from there to the Swedish station, Wasa, on a Basler DC3 aircraft.

Wasa, completed in 1989 and designed to accommodate 16 people, combines good design with use of appropriate technology and operating procedures to minimise impact on the Antarctic environment. Operation of the station over the two months of occupation in 2001–02 used about 300kg of LPG and 28 litres of petrol.

Wasa’s solar-gain design uses well-placed triple-glazed windows that can be opened in a variety of positions to ventilate and regulate heat within the building. Other Wasa design features include solar electricity panels, well insulated walls, floor and ceiling, a heat exchanger to circulate air within the building, and a ‘dry’ toilet for human waste.

Adoption of these measures has resulted in an Antarctic station that is not only environmentally friendly, but also highly efficient, effective and comfortable.

Warren Papworth, Antarctic Treaty and Government, AAD