Antarctic science and operations go on tour

A concerted drive to get the message across to key beneficiaries in major Australian centres about recent developments to enhance the value of Australia’s Antarctic program has been rated a great success. In each State capital in April and May, about 200 people with a strong stake in Antarctic research attended briefings by senior Australian Antarctic Division representatives.

The AAD Chief Scientist, Prof Michael Stoddart, its General Manager of Operations, Kim Pitt, and the manager of the air transport project, Charlton Clark, provided the audience with an overview of the science program and details of the operational support provided to scientists, including dedicated marine science voyages and the future implementation of a comprehensive air transport system.

Each group consisted of scientists who regularly participate in the Antarctic program, university staff, younger scientists and interested members of the public. Around half of the audience in each city was new to the program, with many graduate students keen to find out how to become involved.

Scientists at the meetings agreed that the proposed air transport system would greatly improve the prospects of both research success and their capacity to be involved. Several senior scientists said they had not participated in the Australian science program but had used New Zealand or U.S. air support to fly to the Antarctic. Scientists welcomed both the prospect of flying from Hobart to Casey and the intra-continental transport. The latter would be particularly valuable for atmospheric chemistry research.

Many questions raised at the meetings concerned logistics, such as how air transport changes affect getting equipment in and samples out. Marine scientists were reassured that the introduction of air transport would not have a negative impact on ship-based research but would provide some notable benefits.

The sessions enabled many scientists already in the program to meet each other for the first time, including some who discovered they had colleagues in their own department conducting Antarctic research. In response to audiences requests, the AAD is preparing email lists to help scientists make contact with others. Scientists were urged to contact the AAD with any thoughts, ideas or comments to help improve the air transport service.

Gwen Fenton

Science Planning & Coordination, AAD