Roma, 28 ott. (askanews) – The first crew members have landed in Antarctica, marking the official start of the 37th Italian research expedition, which fully resumes its scientific and logistical activities after the heavy limitations imposed to the previous mission by the coronavirus emergency.
The 2021-22 Summer Campaign will last 4 months, involving 220 technicians and researchers engaged in over 50 research projects at the “Mario Zucchelli” and “Concordia” stations, on the Italian icebreaker vessel “Laura Bassi ” and at some foreign bases. Funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) as part of the National Research Program in Antarctica (PNRA), the Italian missions are managed by ENEA for logistics and operations and by the National Research Council (Cnr) for scientific planning and coordination.
This first 23 participants, arrived with a flight of the Antarctic Program of the United States of America (USAP) will be in charge of reactivating all the services at the Mario Zucchelli station (MZS) and preparing the 3 km runway on the marine pack, necessary to the following intercontinental flights landing. The team of technicians, led by ENEA expeditioner Gianluca Bianchi Fasani, to be completed with the arrival of the first intercontinental flight, will be in charge of all the activities pertaining to the scientific projects and the crew’s stay at the base. In November Alberto della Rovere, also from ENEA, will take charge of the MZS station until the end of the expedition.
18 military experts from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabinieri Corps will support ENEA, Cnr and the various research bodies and universities during the expedition. The military will support the PNRA for external activities and remote fields, naval and underwater activities, weather forecasts and planning and safe conduct of operations of helicopters and aircraft. 4 members of the National Fire Brigade will also participate in the activities.
A C-130J of the 46th Air Brigade of the Italian Air Force (AMI) will provide airlift support among Christchurch (New Zealand), the Italian MZS base and the US base in McMurdo, ensuring the transport of passengers and materials.
40 soldiers of the Italian Air Force based at Christchurch will support the activity.
10 intercontinental flights are scheduled in the course of the expedition, one of which, intended for passengers only, will be operated from Hobart (Australia) with the Airbus-A319 of the Australian Antarctic Division.
This year as well N/R Laura Bassi, the icebreaker vessel of the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics of Trieste (OGS) jointly managed by the Cnr, ENEA and OGS, will participate in the expedition. The ship, which is preparing to sail on 7 December from the New Zealand port of Lyttelton with destination MZS, will make three rotations: the first strictly logistic, the second logistic and scientific and the third entirely scientific, to head back to New Zealand on March 25 2022 .
With the arrival, on November 2nd, of the first crew members at the Concordia station – located on the Antarctic Plateau at a height of over 3000 m above sea- the 17th winter campaign will end and the summer campaign, coordinated by Rocco Ascione of ENEA, begin. In particular, at Little Dome C, 40 kilometers from Concordia, the activities related to setting up camp for the international project “Beyond Epica Oldest Ice” will continue, coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the Cnr (Cnr-Isp) and the collaboration of the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice. Drilling activities of the oldest ice core of the world will be performed with the aim to reconstruct the climatic history of the planet of the past 1.5 million years.
Also in November, the gradual arrival of 13 new participants in the winterover to replace the previous team, will begin. 6 expeditioners from the PNRA, 6 from the French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) and 1 Swedish physician from the European Space Agency (ESA) will remain in complete isolation until November 2022, when, due to external temperatures reaching -80 ° C (perceived up to -100 ° C), it will no longer be possible to reach the base.
In order to ensure Antarctica remains COVID-19 free, the strict health protocol developed last year by the Council of Directors of Antarctic National Programs (COMNAP) continues to apply to all personnel. Keeping Antarctica Covid free as much as possible is crucial to allow human permanence for scientific purposes in an extreme environment and with limited healthcare resources. Therefore all participants are to undergo rigorous health testing both before departure from Italy and upon arrival at the Australian and New Zealand Antarctic gateways. A strict 14-day quarantine is also requested for all personnel prior to their transfer to Antarctica