The Japanese icebreaker “Shirase” arrives at Showa Station | Polarjournal
The icebreaker “Shirase” has arrived off the coast of East Ongul Island in Antarctica. (Photo: Institute of Polar Research)

The Japanese icebreaker “Shirase” has reached Japan’s Antarctic research facility, Showa Station.

The members of the 63rd Research Expedition Team were able to moor the ship about 350 meters offshore after dense pack ice prevented them from going any further. The “Shirase” left Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture on November 10, and supplies were loaded at a stopover in Australia. On its way to Showa Station, oceanographic observations were conducted.

In total, the “Shirase” was underway for 40 days until it reached the Showa station.

The joy was great when the icebreaker appeared in front of the station, and it was greeted accordingly. About 20 members of the station team waved to the ship from the top of a huge boulder as it emerged.

Japanese polar research has a long tradition. The first buildings were built as early as 1957 and today the complex counts over 60 smaller and larger buildings. (Photo: Institute of Polar Research)

Immediately after arrival, work began on transporting goods and fuel from the ship to the station. The transports with snow vehicles and the fuel transport with hoses over the ice are expected to take several days.

Work on setting up outdoor facilities and observations is also in full swing.

“The year flew by,” said 25-year-old Haruki Sugiyama of Hokkaido University, a member of the 62nd team.

“I want to make sure I’m doing a proper handover process and completing any outstanding tasks”, he added as he glanced at the orange ship.

It is quite exhausting to drag the hose from the ship to the fuel supply of the station so that the tanks can be filled. (Photo: Institute of Polar Research)

The conditions to reach the Showa station were much more difficult this year. The ship had to perform 610 ramming operations to break very thick ice on its way to Antarctica, up from 391 the previous year.

The “Shirase” is scheduled to return to Japan in March of next year and the 62nd team and some members of the 63rd teams back home.

Fantastically beautiful – the Showa station in winter. (Photo: Artstation)

Showa Station is a Japanese permanent research station on East Ongul Island in Queen Maud Land. Built in 1957, Showa Station is named after the era in the Japanese calendar in which it was founded, the Shōwa period.

The station serves as a research outpost for astronomy, meteorology, biology and earth science. The complex includes over 60 separate large and small buildings, including a 3-story administration building, living quarters, power plant, wastewater treatment plant, an environmental science building, observatory, computer center, satellite building, ionospheric station, incinerator, earth science building, and a radio station. Also present are fuel tanks, water storage tanks, solar panels, a helipad, a dam and a radio transmitter.

A cairn and plaque at the station serves as a historical monument. It commemorates Shin Fukushima, a member of the 4th Japanese Antarctic Expedition. The cairn containing part of his ashes was erected by his colleagues on 11 January 1961.

Website: Showa Station / Japan Polar Research

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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