Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

US shutdown: Kiwis offer support to Americans on ice

File photo of passengers disembarking a United States Starlifter jet at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Photo / NZ Herald
File photo of passengers disembarking a United States Starlifter jet at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Photo / NZ Herald

Kiwis at Scott Base are offering support to neighbouring McMurdo base as it runs out of money because of the US government shutdown.

The partial shut down, which began on October 1, has stopped funding to the American's Antarctic Programme.

The programme, funded through the US National Science Foundation (NSF), is responsible for running three American bases on the continent.

Kiwis working at New Zealand's Scott Base, about 3km away from the US McMurdo base, may be affected by the funding pull - with money expected to run out completely for the Americans in about five days.

A statement from the NSF said support for its Antarctic staff, facilities, transportation and logistics services would likely lapse on or about October 14.

"Without additional funding, NSF has directed its Antarctic support contractor to begin planning and implementing caretaker status for research stations, ships and other assets,'' a statement from the foundation said.

"Under caretaker status, the USAP (US Antarctic Programme) will be staffed at a minimal level to ensure human safety and preserve government property, including the three primary research stations, ships and associated research facilities. All field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended.''

The safety and health of deployed staff would continue to be a key priority, the NSF said.

Antarctica New Zealand, which manages Scott Base, said it anticipated the US funding lapse would have a "minimal impact" on its programme.

A spokeswoman said it was too early to tell what activities could be affected.

Contingency plans were being developed to minimise any potential impacts.

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Antarctica New Zealand's Board Chair, who are currently in Antarctica, have offered New Zealand's support to the US Antarctic Program,'' the spokeswoman said.

"Antarctica New Zealand is conscious of the operational challenges the US Antarctic Program is facing at this time and we remain committed to our strong partnership with them.

The organisation's had been assured by its US counterpart, commitments involving both nations would continue to be a priority, the spokeswoman said.

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Deepfreeze in Antarctica:

- Antarctica New Zealand has been advised that the Antarctic air link will continue as planned for the 2013/14 season

- Scott Base can function normally even if the US McMurdo Station moves to caretaker status

- New Zealand's Antarctic Programme will continue as planned. Individual events may be modified if there is a component of scientific or logistical collaboration with the US

- New Zealand has not yet been asked to undertake any monitoring or operational activity on behalf of the US

Source: Antarctica New Zealand

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