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Antarctic chief steps down -

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Antarctic chief steps down

The World Today - Friday, 19 December , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Karen Barlow

ELEANOR HALL: The head of Australia's Antarctic Division says the southern continent is in
relatively good shape despite concerns about the impact of global warming.

But Dr Tony Press says there is great pressure on Antarctica and that this will only increase as
international interest continues to rise in its resources.

Dr Press is about to step down as Australia's Antarctic chief and he spoke to Karen Barlow.

KAREN BARLOW: Dr Tony Press may not have physically worked in Antarctica every day of the past 10
years, but has the head of Australia's Antarctic Division he could feel the remote continent's
pull.

TONY PRESS: It does hold people passion. it captures people. But it is also fascinating because
politically it is the place where the first nuclear disarmament treaty in effect was made. The
Antarctic Treaty banned nuclear arms in the late 1950s and early 60s and set aside Antarctica as a
place for peace and science.

KAREN BARLOW: Dr Press says Antarctica is still a place of peace and science and environmentally
the continent is what he calls in fabulous shape. He says it has not been threatened by the recent
introduction of the Antarctic air flights, a project he is proud to have overseen.

TONY PRESS: Look the science that we are doing in Antarctica is so important and will be
increasingly important as we get to understand what direction climate change is happening and how
quickly it might affect the globe. Being able to get scientists in and out of Antarctica quickly to
do that really important research is one of the legacies that I am very proud of.

KAREN BARLOW: Well that's while it remains a service for scientists but fishers, miners and
tourists all want to get down there.

TONY PRESS: Yeah look it is still an incredibly expensive place to do operations and I foreshadow
that for many years to come most of the tourism activity will still occur on the Antarctic
Peninsula south of South America where the distances are short and it is relatively easily
accessible for tourists.

I don't see any mining occuring there for physical reasons but also for political reasons. I
foreshadow that the ban on Antarctic mining will continue for many, many years.

KAREN BARLOW: Which leaves the icy continent in the realm of science and one of the most important
scientific works going on there is ice core surveys to understand climate history.

TONY PRESS: So some of the best climate records that the world has are from Antarctic ice cores.
Ice cores so far have gone back to 860,000 years and some of the work Australians and others around
the world are doing in Antarctica is to try and find an ice core that goes back over a million
years so that we can map a very long period of climate history to understand how climate might
change in the future.

KAREN BARLOW: Apart from the legacy of the Antarctic air flights, Dr Tony Press is most proud that
the human foot print on the continent has been reduced. He says all countries have begun to change
the way they conduct operations in the mostly pristine environment.

TONY PRESS: We just had the Belgians designing and constructing a self sufficient station and one
that can be picked up and taken away when they're finished with it and that is the way of the
future for operating in Antarctica - a very light footprint, as much sustainable energy as can be
developed on the site, and the ability to get up and leave the place without leaving anything
behind.

KAREN BARLOW: Tony Press says Antarctica is extremely important to Australia, not only because of
the claim to 42 per cent of the continent. It influences Australia's weather and the global climate
and Dr Press says there is the prestige of having one of the world's best Antarctic scientific
programs.

Tony Press is staying with Antarctica if not the job. He is becoming the head of the Antarctic
Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Hobart.

ELEANOR HALL: Karen Barlow reporting.