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Czech polar station in Antarctica celebrates ten years

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Brno, Feb 19 (CTK) – The Czech Mendel polar station on James Ross Island in Antarctica, operated by the Masaryk University (MU) in Brno, was opened ten years ago, on February 22, 2007, Pavel Kapler, who headed the station in the past years, has told CTK.
Some 90 scientists from 25 fields have worked at the stations and contributed to significant discoveries there, said Kapler, from the Geographic Institute of the MU’s Faculty of Science.
The construction of the station has cost 50 million crowns.
Researchers use it for two to three months a year, usually from January until March during the summer in Antarctica when the climate conditions are the most favourable.
Their research is based on long-term measurements and it should contribute to the understanding of the importance of Antarctica and its role in the global climate change, Kapler said.
In March 2015, the Czech automatic measurement station registered the so far highest temperature that has ever been measured in Antarctica of 17.8 degrees centigrade.
Czech paleontologists were the first in the world to prove the existence of fossilised sponges (Porifera) in Antarctica.
Czechs also uncovered the remains of the extinct plesiosaurus, a large marine sauropterygian reptile.
In microbiology, scientists from the Mendel station discovered and described several dozen new microorganisms.
They also proved that the invertebrates, in particular the gammarus, use their sense perceiving the Earth’s magnetic field for the orientation.
The Mendel station consists of the 21-metre-long and 11-metre- wide main building for a seasonal stay of 15 to 20 scientists. There are small containers around the building to serve as storage facilities. Scientists use water from a nearby brook running from a glacier.
MU does not plan to enlarge the capacity of accommodation at the station in the future.
“However, we would like to extend the scientific and technical capacities of the station. We would like to add at least one lab and a workshop,” Kapler said.
The energy system of the station should be completely upgraded. Though it is one of the most efficient systems in Antarctica, there is always space for improvement, Kapler said.
“These changes are connected with another complicated logistic operation expected in the next season. Preparations for it have already started,” Kapler said.
The Czech Republic has become the 26th country with its own polar station in Antarctica thanks to which it has the right to vote embedded in the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), regulating international relations with respect to Antarctica.
According to the ATS, signed by 48 countries, Antarctica is considered a supranational territory for scientific purposes only.
($1=25.372 crowns)

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