Antarctica research frozen without icebreaker

New Zealand’s Antarctic research body has put several projects on hold due to budget limitations and logistical problems.

Antarctica New Zealand, the Crown Entity which manages  New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica, has run into difficulty maintaining it’s research programme.

Transport problems were forwarned earlier in the month, when the Antarctia NZ posted on their website:

“With the Swedish icebreaker Oden unavailable this season the United States programme is currently considering a number of potential options to break a channel into McMurdo Sound to enable the resupply of both McMurdo Station and Scott Base. In the event another Ice breaker cannot be found this will have a potentially significant impact on both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons.  In the meantime Antarctica New Zealand is planning for a full summer season as usual.”

It has now been revealed that an alternative ice breaker cannot be found, causing problems with fuel re-supply in particular. As such, Antarctica NZ has stopped all research projects requiring helicopter or fixed-wing support.

Financial shortcomings have also forced Antarctica NZ to halt several other projects.

Paul Gorman covered the story for the Press (also carried by,TVNZ News and several other outlets).

An excerpt (read in full here):

Frozen budget halts research

Planned summer research on the Ice is grinding to a halt as Antarctica New Zealand struggles with its frozen budget.

It also lacks an icebreaker to keep crucial sea lanes open.

Last week the Crown entity withdrew logistical support for an international research project led by the University of Queensland that has been five years in the planning.

Antarctica NZ chief executive Lou Sanson said yesterday from Scott Base that was just one research programme out of a number that were in jeopardy due to factors beyond the organisation’s control.

“Antarctica NZ has placed all research projects on hold that utilise significant helicopter or fixed-wing support until the situation with fuel resupply at McMurdo/Scott Base is clearer.

“A significant number of New Zealand’s on-ice events use no helicopter or fixed-wing and we are still planning to proceed in the delivery of these.

“We are in a real difficult spot with logistics.”

The United States Antarctic Programme of the National Science Foundation is still trying to find an icebreaker to replace the Swedish vessel, Oden, which is unavailable this summer.

Unless an icebreaker can clear a channel in sea ice, fuel that is crucial to power generation and water treatment plants at Scott Base, McMurdo Station and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station could run out.

Flights, field camps and support of international research programmes were also under threat.

The foundation’s Office of Polar Programmes director, Karl Erb, said yesterday he had not given up on finding a solution.

Antarctica NZ’s decision to pull support for the Queensland University-led project on warm winds in the McMurdo Dry Valleys has sparked anger and disappointment.