Czech research station in Antarctica celebrates ten years


This week marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic’s Antarctic J.G. Mendel station located on James Ross Island, operated by Masaryk University in Brno. Annually, groups of scientists conduct research there from January – March. Over the decade there were significant successes and breakthrough results.

Pavel Kapler, photo: archive of Masaryk University in BrnoPavel Kapler, photo: archive of Masaryk University in Brno Earlier, I spoke to Dr Pavel Kapler of Masaryk University’s Department of Geography – Faculty of Science, who also headed the polar station in the past.

“Our expectations for the Antarctic station were quite great and I am very happy to admit that they were met at a very high level or to a very high degree, excellent, I would say. We achieved a number of significant results such as in climatology, where, in March 2015, we registered the warmest temperature ever recorded at Antarctica, which was 17.8 degrees centigrade.

“In palaeontology, for example, there were other findings, such as the fossil remains of a plesiosaurus. There were a huge number of results were in different fields. So we are very happy to have had such an opportunity to contribute to the world’s knowledge of Antarctica.”

I understand there are many fields; is it fair to say that the lion’s share of research has to do with climatology?

“Basically yes, because the scientific presence in Antarctica is to know the past of the continent and therefore the global climate since, to understand the present climate change and to be able to better understand the future. There are of course other fields, but a lot has to do also with global climate change and the impact on local ecosystems, which are glaciers, lower-lying plants and so on.”

J.G. Mendel station, photo: CTKJ.G. Mendel station, photo: CTK Ten years is a good opportunity to assess next steps, I’m sure those are already planned… What are improvements which will be made?

“Absolutely; the opportunity for research on Antarctica is more and more popular and therefore the plan is to boost the capacity of our labs. That means one or two more special buildings, which are usually converted shipping containers. We do not want to exceed the current capacity of the installation, which is 20 people, just to increase the laboratory capacity.”