Australia's Antarctic Research Station Plans to Upgrade

Australia's Antarctic Research Station Plans to Upgrade
Davis Station Antarctica, Australian Antarctic Programme in November 2005. (Graham Denyer/CC BY-SA 2.5/[])
Caden Pearson

Australia's Antarctic research station is preparing to "overhaul and modernise" its research station to be more sustainable.

The improvements aim to address the challenges of living and working in Antarctica, including weather, isolation, logistics, and environmental protection.

The master planning process was announced on Saturday, with Kim Ellis, director of the Australian Antarctic Division, saying it will be an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine Australia’s second-oldest Antarctic station, create world-class facilities for scientific research, and support future operational activities.

“We will combine input from our Antarctic research community with architectural and engineering expertise to develop a sustainable and efficient research station for decades to come,” Ellis said in a statement.

The upgraded facilities will feature open-plan living, flexible lab spaces, waste minimisation and a "modular design" have been incorporated into plans for a major upgrade of Australia's southernmost Antarctic base. It will also aim to improve scope for scientific inquiry, and enhanced communications.

The improvements are part of the federal government's long-term Antarctic strategy and plan which has seen the government commit $450 million over ten years to upgrades.
 Isometric view of potential future Davis research station (Hugh Broughton Architects/AAD)
Isometric view of potential future Davis research station (Hugh Broughton Architects/AAD)

The plan includes a "modular design" which would allow the 63-year-old station's facilities to be easily altered if required. It also seeks to establish a paved runway for year-round aviation capacity near Davis station, which is central to atmospheric, marine, and ice sheet research.

"The Australian Antarctic Division is engaging with Australia's Antarctic community to understand the challenges of living and working in a remote Antarctic environment," Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a statement. "We want to build a sustainable and resilient station that has flexibility to support future science and emerging technologies."

Some 33 Australian expeditioners travelled south in late October for the 2020/21 Antarctic summer, the first wave to head off this year. They were required to complete two weeks of hotel quarantine in Hobart before travelling to Casey Station.

Antarctica is still free of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

About 250 Australian researchers will travel to Antarctica over 2020/21.

Summer activities have been scaled back to focus on changing over teams and re-supplying stations, while no major construction will take place.

Science projects have been limited to data collection and wildlife monitoring.

AAP contributed to this report.