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L. Dugerjav: Antarctica is the refrigerator that cools down the earth

By B.BYAMBADORJ

A Mongolian person is about to set foot on the South Pole (South Geographic Pole of Earth), which is the southernmost point on earth. This person is Ph.D. L. Dugerjav, a professor at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology. He works at an expedition team that travels to and studies Antarctica. The following interview is with L. Dugerjav, taken shortly after he received the Mongolian flag he will be placing at the South Pole.

-You chose to embark on your travel on December 12 is this for good luck?
-Of course. We have to travel through many other places before we reach Antarctica. We have to travel around 50,000 kilometers, which is like going around the earth. First we will travel to the US, and then from there we will go down to South America. From South America we will reach Antarctica and our base of operations there.
At the South Pole in Antarctica, there is only one base, which is an American research base. Only two or three planes travel there in a year. It is not possible for many people to live there soit is quite difficult to get the permissions to travel there. Personally, I have been pursuing to obtain the permission for four years and finally got one. We can only stay at the base for one week, and one person’s travel cost is USD 43,000. It is a lot of money but I found that I cannot miss this opportunity.
Previously, five Mongolians travelled to Antarctica, but this time a Mongolian person is travelling to reach the southernmost point in Antarctica – the South Pole. It will be the beginning of a new page in Mongolian history.
Mongolian will sign the Antarctic Treaty in 2013. It means that Mongolia will have enough knowledge and technological capacity to be able to build a research and study base there. This would also open doors for young Mongolians to join and contribute their work to many international Antarctic study operations and projects.
The study of Antarctica is a whole new level of international diplomacy. Antarctica is Earth’s sixth continent, 10 percent of our dry land, and 80 percent of earth’s pure water exists here as ice. The last reserves of many natural resources exist here. This also signifies the importance of research projects in Antarctica.
Researchers would have to drill an average of 2,400 cubic meter of ice for their studies. Mongolia’s overall land covers 1.5 million square meters of territory. We can understand that Antarctica is ten times as large, with ten times as much mineral resource. Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean combine to intersect at the Antarctic. The bio-mass that exist in the southern oceans will be an important resource for the future. The bio mass is even larger than the weight of 7 billion people on earth combined. Additionally, the wind current is very strong in Antarctica – it is a very important source of renewable energy in the future.
-You say that there is an American research base at the South Pole. Are there any researchers from other counties there?
-In 1959, Russia and America made an agreement concerning Antarctica. Largest studies in Antarctica are conducted by both Russia and America. Only research operations take place in Antarctica because the land itself is not owned by anyone. Any UN member state can sign the Antarctic Treaty and start their studies there.
Just 50 – 60 years ago, people did not know the size and shape of Antarctica – but up until now people have gathered a lot of information.
-Antarctica is the coldest place on earth. How are your preparations going?
-This is the fourth time I am travelling there. The average temperature of Antarctica during winter is minus 74 degrees Celsius, annual average is minus 54 and summer average is minus 34. It will be summer there when I travel to Antarctica. Since it will be around mid-30s there, there won’t be much difference or difficulties for a Mongolian person. Researcher N. Tserendeleg said that he found Antarctica to be not as cold as some regions in Mongolia – nevertheless, it is very difficult to live and work on a research in a minus 80 degree environment. There is no electric transportation, and you walk in constant storm or very strong winds, sometimes reaching up to 180 km/h. There are ice particles that fly around by the shore. Since the strong wind can blow and sweep someone off their feet, the whole team is tied to each other when we travel outdoors. I heard from the people who spent winters there that to travel from one building to another, they have to crawl through a small tunnel that they dug between the buildings.
So very careful planning and preparation is required if one is travelling to Antarctica. Since there were a few Mongolians in Antarctica before we can safely say that Mongolia has passed the minimum knowledge requirement for work in Antarctica.
-What is the objective of your journey this time?
-Just like other achievements Mongolians got in the past such as flying into space or climbing to the top of Everest, having a Mongolian person travel to the Southern tip of Earth is just as important. Mongolian state flag will be set there, and the sound of Mongolian national anthem will echo there. Other than that, we will be continue conducting our research in Antarctica, finding more about climate change for the fourth year in a row.
-How many years have you been researching and working in this field?
-This is the fifth year since Mongolia joined the Bulgarian expedition team. A. Batbold, a climate and weather analyst went to Antarctica. He recently earned his Ph.D. degree in Japan.
After him, I travelled to Antarctica to continue his work. I am centered on geological part of the research. Generally, Mongolian researchers are usually focused on the ice movement, the change in temperature and different geological studies.
-The travel costs seem quite high. How are you financed?
-The most important matter is getting the permission from the US to travel to Antarctica on research purposes. A flight to the South Pole is done only three or four times a year so it is very expensive. This year is a bit different from previous years – Bulgaria, Spain and Portugal used to support the researchers for the flight expenses, which were around USD 30,000. But this year, they made it clear that due to European financial downtime this year they will not be able to provide the funds. Since the funding situation was different, it was a bit unfortunate for me to obtain the permission during this time.
But the Mongolian Government decided to lend me the money; it is included in the “technology and science budget” of next year. Another item I would like to mention is thata Bulgarian researcher in our expedition team sent me a request if I can cover his travel costs so I also took the duty to cover the costs. It is understandable as Bulgarian researchers financed us for the past four years. It took me four months to collect the necessary funds through my relatives, family and associates but it is done.
-Although the world probably won’t end on December 21, it will be one of the coldest days in a year. Don’t you think that’s a bit risky?
-Yes, many people have asked me about that. December 21 is the day when the weather dramatically gets very cold in any country with four seasons. We would say that our “nine” (the traditional nine-levels of cold progress throughout the winter) has started.
People would not deny that maybe the Mayans who lived 6,000 years ago made a mistake in their calendar. We cannot even identify the birth date of our king who lived only 800 years ago; never mind 6,000 years. I think the earth will expire in about 7 – 10 billion years, so I don’t think people should concern themselves with the December 21 date.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=2231

Posted by on Dec 17 2012. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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