Scientists Slam 'Flag-Waving' Antarctica Airport Project

It could start a destructive 'construction race'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 31, 2020 2:45 PM CST
Scientists Slam Plan for Airport in Antarctica
This Aug. 20, 2016, photo shows Australian icebreaker the Aurora Australis docked at Franklin Wharf in Hobart, Australia.   (Sarah Motherwell/AAP Image via AP)

Australia is planning to build a new airport in Antarctica—but scientists say a project that would involve displacing penguin colonies and using more than 115,000 tons of concrete sets a very bad precedent. Environmental scientists say the project at the Davis research station would add an estimated 40% to infrastructure on the continent and could spark a "construction race" among Antarctic rivals, including China, the Guardian reports. Australia's Antarctic Program says the aerodrome, which would have the first paved runway in Antarctica, will allow year-round access to the research station, providing a "capability boost that would revolutionize our scientific activities and enhance Australia’s leadership and long-term interests in the region."

Critics, however, say the station only has 19 staff during the winter, and it has been maintained without problems since 1957. "It’s unprecedented in the Antarctic in terms of the scale of investment and the impact on the environment. Although it is being done in the name of science, very few scientists are enthusiastic," says Shaun Brooks, an environmental scientist at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies of the University at Tasmania. "This is more about flag-waving. It is about firming up Australia’s presence and our claim," he says. Brooks adds: "Antarctica is special. Everywhere else in the world, you measure wilderness by what's left. In Antarctica, it's still the other way round." Australian authorities say it will take at least 17 years to complete the project. (More Antarctica stories.)

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