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Build-up in Australia's Antarctic operations



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Minister for Science

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600. Telephone 726050

MEDIA RELEASE 113 Γ 1 77 August 7977 L 1

BUILD-UP IN AUSTRALIA1S ANTARCTIC OPERATIONS

The Minister for Science, Senator Webster, announced plans for a major build-up in Australia's operations in Antarctica.

Plans include:

. design and feasibility studies for an Australian ship to transport personnel, equipment and supplies to the Antarctic and to carry out marine research in Antarctic waters;

. a major rebuilding program at Australia's four stations at Mawson, Davis and Casey on the Antarctic mainland and at sub- Antarctic Macquarie Island;

. a start on marine research in waters.off Australian Antarctic Territory; and

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. an increase in the staff of the Department of Science's Antarctic Division.

The Minister said there is an urgent need to gather much more information about Australia's Antarctic Territory and adjacent waters, especially in the light of possible exploitation of Antarctic resources.

Design and feasibility studies will begin this financial year for an Australian ship as a possible replace­ ment for the two Danish expedition ships which Australia has chartered for many years but which will soon reach the end

of their useful lives.

- It is estimated that the proposed ship would cost between $15 and $20 million and could be completed in time for service in 1981-82.

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As well as being designed to carry the bulk of expedition personnel and cargo to Australia's Antarctic stations, the ship would also be equipped to support scientific studies of the marine areas of Antarctica.

The Minister said the Antarctic Division will carry out the first phase of a major program,of building reconstruct­ ion and replacement at the Antarctic stations this financial year.

It is estimated that expenditure on the program during the year will exceed #1 million.

The Minister said the Antarctic Division will begin marine research off Australian Antarctic Territory this financial year. : c v .

In the past, Australia's Antarctic research has been confined almost exclusively to the land and ice mass.

Senator Webster said the decision to begin marine research in Antarctica is of major significance in view of the potential of Antarctic waters to contribute to world supplies of food and minerals.

It is also in the national interest to have a sound scientific basis for safeguarding the unique Antarctic environment from the threats posed by exploitation of the Antarctic oceans.

To help pave the way for the new initiatives in the Antarctic, the Government has approved the employment by the Antarctic Division of an additional 15 scientists, technical and building trades personnel.

Further information: Dr Raymond Garrod ■ -Telephone Melbourne 51 0271