Bulgarian Antarctic Base to Re-open around December 20, Base Commander Kamen Nedkov Tells BTA
The plan is to re-open the St Kliment Ohridski Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island around December 20 with the arrival of the naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii (RSV 421), which will take members of the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition from Argentina three days previously, the commander of the base, Kamen Nedkov, said in an exclusive interview for BTA.
Nedkov explained that the logisticians will be the first to come to the base. They will turn on the machines and will start unloading the supplies off the ship. The supplies include food and special equipment, scientific devices and a huge amount of construction materials to build a new laboratory, the foundations for which were laid last year. The new building is to be finished this year.
RSV 421 set sail from the Black Sea port of Varna on November 8. It will travel all the way to Antarctica and back. The people who will board the ship in Argentina are 22 expedition members, including logisticians, scientists and builders, Nedkov said.
This year, the Bulgarian Antarctic scientists will work on 11 projects, including four projects of foreign countries. More research proposals are expected in the coming weeks. In some cases, the Bulgarians may work jointly with Spanish researchers, whose base is right next to the Bulgarian base.
The 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition is expected to last about 90 days, Nedkov said. All logistical and scientific tasks will have to be accomplished within that period. RSV 421 is to start its return voyage earlier, around the middle of February. The voyage to Bulgaria will take 45 days, weather permitting.
Nedkov noted that in addition to building a lab, the crew will install a new wastewater treatment facility. They also plan to build a new water supply system in collaboration with Install Engineering and Hilti. Kaufland is the main sponsor providing the food for the voyage and for the base.
There are arrangements with Spain, Brazil and Turkey to transfer some of the scientists and logisticians to/from the Bulgarian Antarctic Base by plane or ship during the current season.
Nedkov identified the need to transport all recyclable waste back to Bulgaria as one of the important tasks.
Each research project needs to be supported logistically, he said. Sometimes the researchers will need off-shore logistics using Zodiac boats, and sometimes the logisticians will be expected to use sleighs and touring skis to carry and install equipment on the glaciers around the Bulgarian base. Some projects require putting up tent camps far from the base. Reaching such remote spots may only be possible by using RSV 421. As usual, the winter clothing and gear is supplied by Diel Sport.
The programme of the expedition is funded entirely by the Ministry of Education and Science and by the National Roadmap for Research Infrastructure, which is part of the European Roadmap. This means that the Bulgarian Antarctic Base is integrated in the European infrastructure for exploring the polar regions, Nedkov said.
He noted that after the Bulgarian ship starts its return voyage from Antarctica to Bulgaria, the Kliment Ohridski Base will continue to function for another month. It will be closed on March 20. The expedition members will be transported by the Spanish ship Hesperides to King George Island, from where they will be flown to Punta Arenas, Chile.
During the hours when the weather will not allow the expedition members to work outdoors, they will be able to use a large collection of fiction and scientific literature and a variety of films and entertainment programmes prepared from Bulgaria. There is a tennis table as well.
As in earlier years, a solar photovoltaic system is expected to provide much of the electricity needed for the functioning of the St Kliment Ohridski Bulgarian Antarctic Base, Nedkov said.