Brazil’s Comandante Ferra Antarctic Station brings the country to a select group of nations with the rights to explore and decide on the future of the cold continent in an international cooperation project. The fate of the region was outlined in the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1961.
The deal stipulated that only those who conducted research in the continent were allowed to set the rules for occupation in one of the globe’s remotest locations. In 1975, Brazil joined the Antarctic Treaty, and, in 1984, it inaugurated its research station in the region.
The cold continent stretches over an area of 14.5 million km²—nearly twice the size of Brazil. It is also the least known continent. Data collected by scientists reveal that Antarctica is home the largest amount of fresh water on Earth—upwards of 70 percent of global reserves.
Boasting massive glaciers and icebergs, Antarctica also has 90 of the world’s ice. Regarding mineral and energy resources, no exact calculation is available, but oil, natural gas, and gold have been found under the layers of ice.
Ice and research
Antarctica plays a key role in the regulation of the planet’s temperature. The region controls oceanic and atmospheric circulations across the world. To understand how these phenomena operate, researchers from the Federal Universities of Bahia and Pernambuco are aboard Brazil’s Almirante Maximiano Polar Ship, bound for Antarctica.
As it navigates, scientists collect date on the impact of sea currents of Antarctica in Brazilian weather. Researcher Moacyr Araújo, deputy dean of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, believes the work will help understand the effects of climate change.
“The idea is to discover what the effects of gas exchange between ocean and atmosphere are, so we can make a better prediction of what’s going to happen in the future,” he explained. The efforts would not be possible without the aid of the Brazilian Armed Forces. “The support of the Navy and the Air Forces is key because it solves all the logistics issues in a region as hostile as Antarctica,” he pointed out.
In the last ten years, the Brazilian government invested over $122 millions in the Brazilian Antarctic Program (Proantar), which fosters scientific development in the region. The initiative also includes the assessment of the environmental impact made by Brazilian activities in Antarctica, in a bid to ensure the compliance with international norms.
*The reporter traveled at the invitation of the Brazilian Navy.