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D.Ganbaatar: Humans will settle in Antarctica before outer space

By B.DULGUUN

The following is an interview with D.Ganbaatar, the fifth Mongolian to go to Antarctica, highlighting his most recent journey. He was in the 1st shift of the 22nd International Expedition of the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute and worked on Livingston Island, Antarctica from November 11, 2013 to January 30, 2014, representing Mongolia.

-Can you briefly introduce yourself and your profession?

-My name is Ganbaatar. I work for the Ministry of Road and Transportation. I’m a navigator. I plan journeys and give directions for ships on the open sea. Especially during bad weather or fog, I’m responsible for safely escorting ships to nearby ports.

-It sounds like a very interesting profession. For your profession, do you work onboard ships?

-Obviously, I did training on the sea when I was studying in Russia. We sailed for about six months. Since I’ve come back to Mongolia, I’ve been working at Lake Khuvsgul.

-When you were working in Antarctica, was your profession helpful?

-When on a journey, there are times when you need to sail on a ship. During these times, my “sailor’s” profession does help to a certain degree. At least, I will not get seasick.

-You are one of the few Mongolians to go to Antarctica. Can you tell us about it? How did you end up on the continent of ice?

-Only four or five Mongolians have been able to work in Antarctica, so far. Initially, in 1972, State Honored climate expert J.Tserendeleg worked for a whole year at the Russian Meteorological Station, followed by climate expert Chuluunbat in 1982. After that, for 25 years – from 1982 to 2007 – no one else went to Antarctica. In 2008, it was announced that it was to be the year of international polar study. Orders were given from the government and related works were planned. At the time, pole researcher and Ph.D. Dugerjav Lkhamsuren contributed a lot to this work. He is currently working in the Bulgarian Embassy. By getting acquainted with the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute, he placed the stepping stone for transferring Mongolians to research bases in Bulgaria. I’m the third person to go to the Bulgarian research base since then.

-Did Ambassador L.Dugerjav in Bulgaria offer you the chance to go to Antarctica?

-Yes. He and I worked together in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry in 1996. We’ve been acquainted since then. Secondly, we had many opportunities to work together through the Mongolian University of Science and Technology and non-government organizations.

One day, he contacted me and asked me if I wanted to go to Bulgaria because he was no longer able to do his planned journey to Antarctica, as he was named the ambassador to Bulgaria. Before, he was researching whether it was possible to set up Mongolian research bases in Antarctica and asked me to conduct further research on it. I had experience doing all kinds of research. L.Dugerjav had every little problem and finances managed by Bulgaria. Also, Mongolia’s Antarctica Research Association, Mongolian National Water Association and Mon-Zul patronized all of my expenses. I need to say that this work was completed with help and support from many people.

-Some people may be wondering whether it’s easy to go to Antarctica or the North Pole, with a few important contacts. It must require criteria and training as well, right?

-Definitely. It requires all sorts of preparation and training such as language and health, both physical and mental. You can only go to Antarctica if you meet all of these criteria. Not everyone who is willing or has the required money can go there.

-What’s the total expense for a round trip to Antarctica?

-According to Professor L.Dugerjav, the total expense for the expedition is 43 thousand EUR. I paid one million EUR and 8 to 10 thousand EUR was financed by the Mongolian National Water Association and Mon-Zul.

-Can you tell us about the Marshes Route of your journey? What means of transportation did you use?

-Probably every means of transportation. First, air routes were from Ulaanbaatar to the capital of Kyrgyzstan,Bishkek; to Istanbul, Turkey and on to Sofia; from Sofia to Rome; and from Rome to Buenos Aires. Then I did a local flight from Buenos Aires to a small town in Argentina named Rio Gallegos, where it was planned to make a “jump” to Antarctica with a military aircraft. After six hours of flight in the aircraft, a Hercules C-130, I arrived on King George Island.

-Was that your destination?

-No, by ship I went from King George Island to Livingston Island where the Bulgarian base is located.

-On this long journey, what problems and difficulties did you face?

-Communication was the most difficult.  The Bulgarians and Turkish people who traveled with me from South America were able to freely talk with their families on the phone, whereas the only Mongolian wasn’t able to phone anyone. Even message roaming advertised by Mongolian cell phone operators, weren’t in service in South America. I even wondered what century Mongolian mobile services were in. The next problem was the staff at South America’s border. They didn’t even know that Mongolia was a country or recognize my Mongolian passport. They were wondering what sort of country it was and why there was a Mongolian among Bulgarians. I’m really curious as to what our representative for the UN is currently doing.  It was a shame that some 40 people of the expedition had to wait for hours and be troubled just because of one Mongolian.

-Wasn’t it difficult working in a place covered in ice and snow?

-Well, there are changes even in people’s attitudes when you work in an isolated place with stable temperatures of minus 50 degrees Celsius. However, it was interesting to see discrimination based on skin color and religion disappear and the start of communications between one human being to another.

-Your motive was definite. As for the rest of the members of the expedition, what were they researching?

-The main objective of our expedition was to research global climate change. Therefore, the research projects were all connected to this objective. We only participated in research in Antarctica that was assigned to the Bulgarian expedition by the European Union. On top of this general research, research on whether it was possible to set up a Mongolian research base in Antarctica was also being conducted. Professor L.Dugerjav had already marked locations to conduct the research when he went to Antarctica previously. We conducted further research and placed a landmark for a Mongolian research base on Livingston Island.

-Does that mean that a Mongolian research base will be established in Antarctica?

-The transportation and logistics issues, as I mentioned before, are the toughest challenge. Therefore, we chose the closest location to the continent to place the landmark. Even Livingston Island is a very difficult place to get to. You can’t fly directly there by airplane. You must travel by ship. This continent itself is the continent of wind,  and it’s a constant wind.

-What research projects are other countries mainly conducting? What’s the reason for placing such importance on this continent?

-All sorts of research work is being conducted. The world’s biggest countries are actively researching minerals and clean water resources. Natural resources will run out someday. Researchers believe that when this happens, people will settle in Antarctica before considering settling in outer space. Just like the saying, “tip of the iceberg”,  this continent is a block of ice with a huge continent inside it. It was determined that an enormous amount of clean water is under it, and if you go further, there should be plenty of mineral resources. For instance, it was determined that there is a large amount of coal, gold and iron resources in the Transantarctic Mountains.

-Is Antarctica under international authority or are countries establishing their own ownership?

-At first, several countries, with England and Norway leading the way, discussed this. In 1950, when this topic was getting a lot of attention, 12 countries that started Antarctic research united to establish an Antarctic contract. This contract wasn’t for distributing the land but for cooperating on scientific research. Today, around 50 countries have united in this contract. It was around January, when the Mongolian government talked about joining the contract. It seems that they have generally agreed to do so.

-By joining this contract, will Mongolia be able to get access to the resources of Antarctica?

-For starters, by joining this contract, official rights will be issued to establish a research base on Livingston Island to conduct research work. In other words, the location where we placed the landmark will properly become Mongolia’s. However, this issue is not yet official.

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Posted by on Mar 6 2014. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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