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Kh.Purevdagva: The country that works and contributes most will get a better share of Antarctica’s resources

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

Countries all around the world are increasing research work in Antarctica ito gain more influence on the icy continent and in search for a new permanent place to live in the future. Mongolia is also taking part in this competition and striving towards making significant contributions.

The seventh Mongolian to visit Antarctica, Kh.Purevdagva, recently returned from the 23rd International Expedition of the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute. He travelled to Antarctica to raise Mongolia’s involvement in Antarctic studies, begin study of the continent’s water, snow and air, and complete preparation work for setting up a Mongolian base in Antarctica.

Below is an interview with hydrologist engineer Kh.Purevdagva of the Mongolian Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology.

You’ve become the seventh Mongolian to experience Antarctica. Can you share your impression from when you first stepped onto the icy continent?

I’m the seventh Mongolian but the sixth Mongolian researcher to go to Antarctica. G.Gankhuu, a member of the Ulaanbaatar City Council, was one of the representatives. He reached the summit of Mount Tyree, the second highest mountain of Antarctica (4,892 m), and put up Mongolia’s flag.

When you land on a land covered in snow, you start to lose spatial orientation. It’s hard to determine how far something is because everything is white.

How different was Antarctica from your expectations?

I had a vague idea about how it would be since I’ve researched glacial frost on mountains and met people who’d visited Antarctica. But the immense amount of moisture and strong wind was unimaginable. In a place where you can’t differentiate day and night and with constant snow storms, psychological change is very much possible for people like us who grew up looking up at the blue sky and vast landscapes.

Did you experience any psychological changes?

I felt uncomfortable for the first few days. As I started getting busy with research and base-related works, I quickly adapted and stopped having problems.

You’ve travelled approximately 60,000 km to go and return from Antarctica. Can you share some stories from your journey?

I reached my destination after four plane trips, one bus trip and five boat trips. The voyage on a ship was the most difficult ride. I got seasick during a three-day journey though Drake Passage. Heavy waves, generated from the meeting of hot and cold water from Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, forces ships to oscillate. Ship oscillation makes people nauseous and gives them head ache so people lie down without eating or drinking anything. I could only get up after half a day of rest on my way to Antarctica, and a full day of rest on my way back.

How were you welcomed at the Bulgarian base?

I went on the second shift of the 23rd expedition. Five people from the first shift had been there for a week and came to welcome us. The Bulgarian base is located half a km from the shore. The front was completely covered in snow so they were melting it for drinking water. As soon as we arrived, we started creating living conditions for ourselves. First and second shifters are required to create suitable living conditions and maintaining them. While helping their work, I did my research work. I had to rest less and work more.

How was the weather?

It was summer. During our stay, the temperature stayed between minus 15 to two degrees Celsius. There was always a snow storm. Everything, including our clothes, bed, pillows, and shoes, would get wet since humidity levels are constantly at 97 percent.

It must’ve been difficult.

First few days were difficult. We had to clean the snow covering the base, dig up a hole, and draw up water form it with a machine for water supply. This improved living conditions by providing water to the bathroom and boiler. It isn’t easy to make a base covered in snow during winter livable. This year, Bulgaria hasn’t planned any research work. Rather than study for water and plant, Bulgaria has been focusing more on human habitation study for many years, particularly to find out whether it’s possible to live in Antarctica. I became one of the subjects for the study.

Is it possible to live in Antarctica?

It’s possible during summer, provided that you have suitable clothing and food to endure the humidity and snow storms.

Is it possible to join expeditions of other countries and partake in their research?

Mongolia started paying attention to Antarctica from 1970 to early 1980s. J.Tserendeleg got to work for a year at Russia’s Vostok research station in Antarctica in 1972, and D.Chuluunbat in 1982. At the time, Mongolia held a policy to send people to Antarctica, but the policy wasn’t implemented for 30 years afterwards. In 2007, the president of Antarctica Research Association of Mongolia, professor L.Dugerjav, collaborated with the Bulgarian Antarctica Institute and sent four Mongolian researchers to the icy continent.

Currently, there are over 60 bases and stations of some 40 countries in Antarctica. Mongolia can contact any of them and join. But who, when and how they contact them is important. Not anyone can go to Antarctica. For instance, four Turkish researchers requested to join the expedition I went on and even offered 200,000 USD, but were rejected. This shows that the relation between the two countries is more important than money. It’s time for the Mongolian government to pay attention to this matter.

What is the significance of going to Antarctica?

As said by L.Dungerjav, asking why Mongolians need to work in Antarctica is the same as asking why it’s necessary for Mongolians to go to space. Antarctica is the only place which isn’t under ownership of somebody. Its land is ten times bigger than Mongolia’s. It has tremendous amount of natural resources. Scientists estimate that the total weight of all the Antarctic krill is more than the total weight of all humans on Earth. Approximately 80 percent of the earth’s clean water is frozen in Antarctica. Countries across the world are spending substantial money to establish their position in Antarctica. It’s certain that people will live there and get a share of its natural resources. The country that works most and contributes most will get a better share.

How high is Mongolia’s influence? When will Mongolia establish a base?

This issue is connected to Mongolia’s foreign policy. It would be an honor if Mongolia becomes one of the 40 countries with bases in Antarctica. Mongolia got a hold of land for a base between Spain and Bulgaria’s bases in Livingston Island. I returned after cleaning and making preparations there. If Mongolia sets up a base, we can start an Antarctica study program and send our own team. Firstly, Mongolia needs to join the international Antarctica Treaty. The Council of Managers of the National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) will hold an international conference in June in Sofia, Bulgaria so Mongolia should submit a request for membership then.

How much does it cost to set up a base?

Japan and the USA established bases with a billion USD near the South Pole. Spain is setting up a new base with 1.2 million USD in Livingston, 3,000 km away from the South Pole. Mongolia can establish a base with a million USD.

Is it true that you did the first study on snow at the Bulgarian base?

Yes. This type of study hadn’t been done before at the Bulgarian base. I set up eight poles for measuring snow level and collected data every day. I wanted to compare the shape, resource, and precipitation level of snow of Mongolia and Antarctica. I will report results after developing my data. It was fascinating to find out that snow in Antarctica all have the same density and temperature. I observed a generation of snow accumulation. In Mongolia, snow doesn’t accumulate and melts quickly. I tried to do as much research on snow shapes, weight, and structure as possible during my stay there. I taught my study work to a Bulgarian researcher before heading back. He will continue my research work and send me his report after he returns to Bulgaria in March.

Did you bring anything from Antarctica?

I brought a liter of clean, spring water from a lake near the area where a Mongolian base will be set up. I gave it for analysis. I brought a sample of a flower that was growing on smooth rock, but it was confiscated at the customs. Although Bulgaria has approval samples from Antarctica through borders of Argentina, our team forgot to bring the permit.

How is global warming affecting Mongolia?

In the last 70 years, the average temperature of the world rose by 2.1 degrees Celsius. The main indication of climate change is the melting of ice. Ice on top of snow-capped mountains such as Tsambagarav, Khakhiraa, and Turgen Mountains are melting considerably. Four meters of thick ice melted from Tavanbogd Mountain. The melting has decreased in the past two years because the summers aren’t as scorching as before. Glacial mass balance in Mongolia has sustained negative balance, meaning that global warming is affecting Mongolia.

 

Source: mongolnews.mn/1ged

 

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=13269

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