Antarctica: At the start 34th Italian expedition with 250 participants and 50 research projects


With the opening of the Mario Zucchelli station, the 34th Summer Campaign of the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA) has begun, financed with 23 million euro by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and implemented by ENEA for logistics operations and by the National Research Council (CNR) for planning and scientific coordination. It will last 4 months, during which scientists and technicians will operate in harsh environmental conditions, defying strong gusts of wind and low temperatures (such as -40 / 50 ° C, recorded in this period at the Italian-French Concordia station, in the heart of the continent at 3300 meters of altitude).

The 2018-19 Summer Campaign foresees the participation of 250 technicians and researchers, both Italian and foreign, involved in approximately 50 research projects, ranging from ecology to medicine, to astronomy to pharmacology, which will be conducted at the national and international Antarctic bases, in the climate of international collaboration which characterizes the only continent entirely dedicated to science, also one of the main engines of the planet's climate system.

The summer campaign at the Italian-French Concordia Dome C station on the Antarctic plateau is kicking off as well, with the new 13 winter over, 7 Italians from the PNRA, 5 French from the IPEV (French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor) and 1 physician from the ESA ( European Space Agency), who will relieve the team that spent the nine months of the previous Winter Campaign in total isolation, with temperatures dropping to-80 ° C.  At the Concordia station observatories, studies and research in the fields of glaciology, chemistry and physics of the atmosphere, astrophysics, astronomy, geophysics and biomedicine are envisaged.

This year jet planes landed for the first time at the Mario Zucchelli Station. The thirty-year experience of the PNRA in assessing the state of the pack (the sea ice layer) and its resistance to the impact of the aircraft, made it possible for an Airbus-A319 of the Australian Antarctic Division, coming from Hobart, Tasmania, carrying 44 researchers and technicians -both Italian and Koreans from the neighboring station Jang Bogo- to  land at Tethys Bay, in the Ross Sea,

It was then the turn of the Ilyushin-76 cargo flight, an aircraft with a 50-meter wingspan, which supplied the Italian station with approximately 24 tons of material. The following cargo flights will be carried out, as usual, by Hercules L100 / 30 and C-130. All the air operations are made possible by the expertise of the logistic crew of the PNRA, one of the very few Antarctic programs with a thirty year-experience in the management of air carriers in the Antarctic continent at the service of science.

The twenty-person expedition team set off from Christchurch (New Zealand) with a US Antarctic program flight to the McMurdo station, aboard two small aircraft (a Twin Otter and a Basler) ) to reach the Italian Mario Zucchelli base on the promontory of Terra Nova Bay the next day, landing on the ice of Tethys Bay. The expedition leader Alberto Della Rovere, ENEA technicians, Armed Forces personnel in charge of the operating room, helicopter pilots, a physician and a cook have provided for the "thawing" of the base, remained closed during the long austral winter, when temperatures, milder on the coast, drop to -40 ° C.  This first group has reactivated the services of the base and above all has prepared the 3-km track on the ice pack suitable to host the intercontinental transport services, which for the first time this year use a combination of four air carriers .

During this 34th summer campaign, work will continue in Boulder Clay to build an airfield which will make the Mario Zucchelli Station a point of reference for the nearby bases. This "all Italian" project will be of fundamental importance for the autonomy of air transport of the PNRA, even in the months following the break of the pack, which generally takes place at the end of November.



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Due to the complexity of the activities conducted and the difference in time zone (the "Mario Zucchelli" and the Italian-French "Concordia" bases are twelve hours and six hours ahead of Italy respectively), please arrange the interviews with the researchers by writing to: