Brazil rebuilding Antarctic base gutted by fire

May 7, 2013 at 12:14 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, May 7 (UPI) -- Brazil is rebuilding its major Antarctic research base, gutted in a fire more than a year ago, but millions of dollars worth of scientific data acquired over the years will be impossible to recover.

Brazil says its Antarctic base is critical to national planning for climate change but the Antarctic station also aims to assert the country's presence in an area increasingly up for exploitation as polar ice melts.

Two Brazilian navy officers died and a Brazilian sailor was injured when a fire reported to have started in the fuel and generator area engulfed the base. Material damage was calculated at $12.4 million but scientists said research losses were greater.

Argentine and Chilean rescue teams helped with the rescue and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff vowed an immediate start to reconstruction. More than a year later, Brazil has put its losses behind and gone back with a winning design.

Located in Admiralty Bay on King George Island, part of the South Shetland Islands near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, the Comandante Ferraz is Brazil's permanent Antarctic base.

The facility is named after Brazilian navy Cmdr. Luis Antonio de Carvalho Ferraz, who visited Antarctica with British exploration teams and pioneered Brazil's Antarctic program.

The winning design was announced by the Brazilian navy after a nationwide competition. Winning architect Estudio 41 will receive $49,700 for the commission.

Current estimates say Brazil will spend $52 million on rebuilding and re-equipping the base, which is to be ready by March 2015.

The navy's approval of the new design took into account architect Estudio 41's response to the extreme weather conditions and the topography of the site.

The navy's close involvement with the Antarctic project suggests the country's security concerns in an area seeing increased navigation but Brasilia has maintained emphasis on environmental research.

Estudio 41 plans for the base suggest Brazil anticipates extensive future operations at the site. The base can accommodate up to 64 people in the summer and 34 in the winter. There are homes for the personnel, dining, Internet cafe and video room, library and conferencing facilities in the site design.

Outside the base a helicopter, ground vehicles garage and fuel tanks will take care of the logistics. Fuel usage includes ethanol and solar batteries.

The architects opted for adjustable pillars to give the base greater flexibility in extreme weather conditions.

Prize jury member Flavio Ferreira praised the design's "beautiful formal composition" and "the rhythm of the support structures" and a smart use of space.

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