Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Scott Base facilities to get major upgrade

Scott base with Mt Erebus behind, Antarctica. Photo / NZPA
Scott base with Mt Erebus behind, Antarctica. Photo / NZPA

A multi-million dollar upgrade of facilities at Antarctica's Scott Base will allow scientists to undertake crucial field work year-round.

Antarctica New Zealand today announced a $3.4 million makeover of its Scott Base Hillary Field Centre facility, extending the window for scientific analysis that is today largely confined to the summer season.

The refurbishment, part of a three-year, $3.9 million project to enhance the base, will add three new internal laboratories, mobile laboratories, additional capacity for specialised external laboratories and other facilities.

The work is scheduled to begin next winter.

"This will enable scientists to complete critical analysis on site and throughout the year," Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Peter Beggs said.

Presently, the majority of scientific samples are shipped or air freighted from Antarctica to New Zealand for full examination and research.

This usually occured at the end of the summer season and was dependent on timely shipping access to McMurdo Station.

"The expansion and reconfiguration of the Hillary Field Centre will significantly enhance specific science programme capabilities on the ice and stretch out the research window into the commencement of the winter freeze and winter itself."

The overall project will include a makeover of the administration area and changes to the facilities available for invited visitors.

It comes amid a boom in homegrown Antarctic research, generally focussing on how the white continent will respond to climate change, and its implications for the rest of the world.

Last month, the recently-established New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute announced its latest round of research projects, investigating a wide range of Antarctic environments, especially around the edges of the Antarctic continent where its icy margin interacts with the surrounding ocean.

Researchers would also analyse how animals, plants and fungi fare in these extreme environments as they change.

Four of the seven new projects will undertake fieldwork in Antarctica this coming season as part of New Zealand's Antarctic Programme, while another will deploy to the sub-Antarctic using the University of Otago's research vessel Polaris II.

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