Prof. Hristo Pimpirev: Bulgaria is respected nation in Antarctica and has excellent relations with other Antarctic nations3 October 2011 | 17:27 | FOCUS News Agency
FOCUS: Prof. Pimpirev, how is the preparation for the 20th Antarctic expedition going?
Prof. Hristo Pimpirev: A van loaded with wind generators, Bulgarian-made brined cheese, Bulgaria-distilled rakia, Bulgarian honey – typically Bulgarian things we want to take to the base. The van will be in the Spanish port of Cartagena in five or six days. There the research vessel Las Palmas is staying. The ship will head to Antarctica in ten days. We will load this cargo and it will be taken to the base in November. The expedition departs earlier than usually. The Antarctic winter is now over and Antarctic summer begins and the first group usually departs in the middle of November from Sofia and arrives in the base at the end of November, but now the first group of nine people departs on November 2 with a flight to Buenos Aires and then to the Argentinean town of Rio Gallegos and from there by bus to the Chilean town of Punta Arenas and finally by a plane of the Brazilian Air Force to King George Island – the largest island of the South Shetland Islands, one of which is our island Livingston. They depart from Punta Arenas on November 8; it takes three hours to reach King George Island where they board the Brazilian icebreaker Almirante Maximiano. By then the vessel will have been loaded with 5 tons of fuel for the upcoming season. The icebreaker will take Bulgarian polar researchers to the Bulgarian base where the new Antarctic season begins around November 12. This is the 20th expedition.
FOCUS: What do you expect of the new expedition?
Prof. Hristo Pimpirev: I hope it will be more successful than the previous ones. The logistics have been provided with the help of the Brazilian Air Force and Navy and Spanish Navy. Airplanes hired by Portuguese researchers will be used, too.
This year’s scientific program is very ambitious. A Bulgarian project will study the global warming – how it influences sea mammals, mainly seals, and plants, mainly lichen. It will examine the radiation of the continent. The project is financed by the National Fund for Scientific Researches. This year it allocates money so that there is also a Bulgarian project in Antarctica. We will work on a multinational project as well in cooperation with Spanish, Portuguese and Argentinean scientists. It deals with the global warming, too. It will study frozen soil. Last season accurate gauges were placed to measure temperature and air humidity. These are the two main projects. There is also a medical project studying how a human organism reacts to extreme conditions. It is headed by professor Nikolay Tsankov.
Regarding logistics, the scientific lab has to be completed. This year we want to build a new church again called Saint Ivan of Rila, but this time it will have a nicer place. A special cross is already traveling by Las Palmas ship. The old church will serve as a shelter for sledge cars, but the new one will be more spacious and representative. This is the second Orthodox church on the continent. The other one is the Russian church on King George Island. We have also a construction program – three new wind generators will be installed. We try to use alternative sources of energy and reduce environmental pollution.
FOCUS: How is Bulgaria’s cooperation with the other countries developing?
Prof. Hristo Pimpirev: The global warming project is multinational – Bulgarian, Spanish, Portuguese and Argentinean scientists participate in it. We hope Brazilian researchers will join it, too. We have very warm relations and they help us gratuitously. We manage to organize expeditions with the slender budget we have. The transport to Antarctic and back is the most expensive part of an expedition and we get it almost free of charge from our Antarctic friends and colleagues. We use their vessels and aircraft, which is extremely expensive. For example, one-hour flight by helicopter costs about USD 5,000 and we do not pay anything. A private company charges a person USD 3,000 and we fly absolutely free of charge and save public funds thanks to our good ties with our Antarctic counterparts. Bulgaria is one of the respected nations on the continent. We enjoy the help of strong countries with traditions, such as Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
FOCUS: What is this year’s budget of the Bulgarian expedition?
Prof. Hristo Pimpirev: This year the Bulgarian Ministry of Education, Youth and Science allocates BGN 280,000. The other countries’ minimum budgets are about EUR 1 million each. But we manage thanks to the excellent ties we have with the other Antarctic nations.
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