Today, we go as far south as we possibly can, to a place where the sun never sets and a place that attracts thousands of scientists, despite boasting an average annual temperature of -50 degrees Celsius. Czech scientists have been participating in research work at the South Pole for decades but they hope to make headlines with a new project that is being launched at the end of the year. Thanks to the joint efforts of the Education Ministry and the Czech Academy of Science, a new permanent polar station is to be built in the winter of 2004/2005, allowing scientific surveillance to take place for some thirty years to come. To find out more, I spoke to Hynek Adamek, from the Czech branch of the National Geographic:
"The project is a result of an outstanding reputation of Czech scientists, who have been working at foreign polar stations since the sixties. It is an opportunity to get to an exclusive scientific club of countries, which have had their stations in Antarctica."
So Czech scientists have had a long tradition on the South Pole?
"Czech scientists have been working there since the sixties, especially at Russian and American stations. It counts forty years of experience. At the moment, these scientists have been collaborating with all present countries that have carried out some kind of research there."
What kind of research are our scientists going to be doing on the South Pole?
"The main scientific activity of the station is going to be the study of changes in climate and the problems of the development of life in harsh conditions."
Could you give us an idea of the conditions that scientists work under?
"Life there is not the cruel romance like it was in the books of Amundsen and Scott, at the times of the construction of the first scientific polar stations, at the start of the nineteenth century. Nowadays, priority is the scientific programme, which is carried out under the strict safety precautions. It is not possible to leave the station without stating a reason and place. It is hard work, especially at the stations based in the centre of the continent, where temperatures are from minus thirty up to minus fifty degrees Celsius and the strong windstorms. The stations at the periphery do not have to face such harsh conditions and above all, most of them function at the time of the Antarctic summer. The summer temperatures here could reach up to 15 degrees Celsius above zero."
For more details about the Czech scientific polar station, visit the web pages of the Czech branch of the National Geographic. You will find them at: www.national-geographic.cz
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