Prof. Hristo Pimpirev, Director of the Bulgarian Antarctic Union, in an interview with the FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Prof. Pimpirev, what do the meetings of the XXIV Meeting of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and XXXII Meeting of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), held in Portland, Oregon, USA, represent? You took place in these meetings, what news do you bring us?
Hristo Pimpirev: Meetings of the Board of Managers of National Antarctic Programs are annual and they gather the heads of the programs. For us it is extremely important to be there because these are the people, who set the schedule for movement of their ships and aircraft to the Antarctic. In view of the fact, that Bulgaria doesn’t possess its own logistics, we must rely on other Antarctic strong nations disposing of budgets amounting to over USD 20 million a year. I’m very content from this meeting, because we’ve managed to contact with these Antarctic programs, which have research stations near the Bulgarian polar base ‘St. Klimetn Ohridski’ and dispose of serious logistics – ships and aircraft. I’ve managed to set the schedule for the movement of people, materials, food and fuel for the forthcoming 21-st Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition. I’m satisfied with the Brazilian Antarctic Program, despite the heavy stroke they endured (in February their Antarctic research station was burnt down), this year they will transfer what is left from their station and in this way will keep the Antarctic clean. Regardless of this accident, their ships will help us reach the Bulgarian polar base. This will happen in mid-November. Our base will start working before the base of our neighbors from Spain. The economic crisis in Spain forced them to send only one ship this year. The ‘Las Palmas’ ship, which used to transport food, products and people to our base, will no longer sail to the Antarctic. The only Spanish ship left for exploitation is ‘Esperidas’ and this fact will additionally worsen the Bulgarian logistics. Our Spanish neighbors will officially open their base at Christmastime in December, which means that our team will be all alone for a month and a half on the Livingston Island. In January, we will use the splendid opportunity, given to us by the Spanish Antarctic Program, with their ‘Esperidas’ ship and Brazilian military aircrafts. I hope our team to successfully finalize all planned tasks, which include repair and rehabilitation activities in the base. We also intend to equip and finish the construction works of the ‘St. Ivan Rilski’ chapel. So this year we are much more optimistic. In addition, we have already received our budget of around BGN 300,000 from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Science and we already enjoy safety and can plan our activities ahead. It seems this year will be more successful, because up to now we have been on the edge – whether there will be an expedition or not, whereas now we are calm and plan everything on time.
FOCUS: What are the plans about the development of Antarctica, which were discussed at the meetings?
Hristo Pimpirev: This is the major focus of the meetings – what the future of Antarctica will be, what will be done there, what the cooperation between the countries will be. We are a fully-fledged member at all these meetings. At this meeting two Portuguese colleagues joined our delegation, because they have a status of an observer at the meetings and since they work in our base, we made a gesture and the Bulgarian delegation was international – two Portuguese colleagues from the Portuguese Ministry of Education joined our base. The most important under discussion was the future of Antarctica. A 50-year plan is being worked our about the future of the continent and it is almost certain that in 50 years there will be permanent settlements, which will work together with tourism and scientists. The world is overpopulated and Antarctica is the place where you can experience the wild nature. The continent is rich in ores and minerals and the most attractive ones are the oil and natural gas fields in the continental shelf. For now it is very dangerous to extract these raw materials, because the shelf there is very deep. There are a lot of icebergs, but technologies will be invented and in the next 50 years when the rest of the world experiences a shortage of raw materials and fuel, it will head to this continent and Bulgaria already has a reserved place there. We have a base that we keep on developing, fortunately.