Turkey plans its own Antarctic station | Polarjournal
The planned Turkish Antarctic Research Station (pictured) is to be built in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula on Horseshoe Island. Between 24 and 50 people are to be accommodated in the station, which is to operate all year round. The graphic shows the various buildings and structures planned. Image: Turkish Polar Institute

Antarctica belongs to no one and yet to everyone. The international Antarctic Treaty System includes 54 states and 40 of them have also signed and ratified the Protocol on Environmental Protection (also known as the Madrid Protocol). Among other things, this allows the signatory states to build and operate their own research station in the Antarctic. Turkey is one of the most recent countries to ratify the Protocol. It has now also submitted plans to build its own station.

According to the Turkish Polar Institute TUBITAK MAM PRI, which is responsible for the management and operation of the station, the TARS (Turkish Antarctic Research Station) should be able to accommodate up to 50 people after completion. After a two-year trial run during the Antarctic summers, it will be eventually operated year-round and will advance the national Antarctic research program. Research areas include climate and ice science, atmospheric and space sciences, biological and earth sciences, and the impact of human activities on Antarctica. These research branches are part of the Turkish Polar Research Program, which has been in force in Antarctica since 2017.

The planned station will be built with prefabricated components produced in Turkey. Within two years of receiving the green light, the station should be ready for operation. Currently, only containers for eight people are available on Horseshoe Island to serve as a summer research camp. Image: Turkish Polar Institute

Plans for the station, which will total just under 4,000 square meters, include a main building that will stand on stilts and be divided into three distinct areas in four modules (sleeping, living & dining, laboratories, offices). The individual modules are separated from each other by closable corridors, which should also contain their own air filtration systems. The laboratory area will contain five laboratories and will only allow initial analyses. Final examinations of samples are to be carried out in Turkey. The technical areas such as energy, maintenance and vehicles will be housed in other buildings. This is planned for practical and safety reasons, the institute writes. Solar collectors and wind turbines are to supply a large part of the necessary energy. Diesel generators are used for emergencies and as an add-on. A planned helipad is to be used for emergencies only. A pier or other landing place for ships is not planned. All transports and connections are to be carried out by small boat. The station receives water from three lakes above the station. Wastewater is largely recycled and only small amounts are discharged into the bay; waste is either incinerated or collected and transported back to South America.

The TARS is to be built on Horseshoe Island (red circle). The island is located in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula in Marguerite Bay, well below the Arctic Circle. Nearby are the British station Rothera and the Argentine station San Martin. The island, which is almost 12 km long and 6 km wide, is heavily glaciated. Image: Michael Wenger via Google Earth

The construction of the station is to be carried out during two Antarctic summers. For this purpose, all modular parts are to be prefabricated in Turkey and then brought to Horseshoe Island via South America. The Polar Institute expects a staff of about 130 people for the construction. After commissioning, the station will initially be manned only in the summers to test it. After that, year-round operation is planned. The term is stated as 25 years. This also is not the first time that Horseshoe Island has been home to an Antarctic station. Great Britain already had its Station Y in operation here in the 1950s and again in the 1960s. The hut still stands today and is part of the Antarctic cultural heritage.

Turkey’s polar program was officially launched in 2017 when Turkey ratified the Madrid Protocol. A year later, the temporary research camp was established on Horseshoe Island. Now the country wants to establish a permanent station at the same location and join the list of research nations. Image: AA Photo via Daily Sabah

Turkey is one of the youngest Antarctic nations and is hitting the accelerator. A first Antarctic expedition with Turkish participation was launched in 2016 together with Ukraine. After Turkey ratified the Madrid Protocol on the Environment in 2017, the way was clear for its own expeditions. Just one year later, the temporary research camp was set up on Horseshoe Island. This is now to be replaced by the new station. TUBITAK MAM PRI has submitted plans and a comprehensive environmental assessment for the construction of the TARS station. This assessment is currently publicly available (e.g. via the website of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD)) and can be commented on accordingly. The Environmental Assessment Study is mandatory as part of the “Protocol on the Protection of the Environment in Antarctica Treaty”, also called the Madrid Protocol. Based on this study, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Members will vote on whether to grant Turkey permission to build and operate the station. The planned meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties is to take place in Paris in mid-June.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

Link to the Australian Antarctic Division website for the assessment study: Australian Antarctic Division

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