A few weeks ago, registrations for the School Antarctica Fair, a unique contest in the world, have been open
AN EXPEDITION TO THE WHITE CONTINENT: THIS IS THE PRIZE THAT THE WINNING TEAMS OF THE ANTARTIC SCHOOL FAIR CAN GET
05/31-2022 – 15:29
A few weeks ago, applications were opened for the School Antarctic Fair, a unique competition in the world, organized by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH) where high school students from all over the country can apply for their research proposals in Antarctica. The prize for the winners is participation in the School Antarctic Expedition (EAE), a dream trip to Professor Julio Escudero’s INACH base on King George Island, where young people can meet and interact with researchers from the National Antarctic Science Program.
How does a school expedition to Antarctica take place?
The last EAE was held in February of this year and was made up of the winners of the previous versions of the FAE. They are Matías Peña and Leandro Escobar (both of the Liceo Carlos Cousiño Goyenechea of Lota), Matías Rojas (Greenhill College of Punta Arenas), Nicolás Morales and his teacher Eniuska Azócar of the Evelyn’s School of Santa Cruz; Sofía Cerpa (Saint John de Rancagua English School), Selena Pizarro and Diego Escobar of the Liceo San Antonio de Colina in the metropolitan region.
After months of planning and virtual meetings, the day has finally come to travel to Punta Arenas, some have gone by bus from their cities to Santiago airport and others from Concepción. Upon arrival, they had to comply with seven days of preventive quarantine at a central hotel in the southern city and underwent two PCR tests.
Having the last negative result, they were able to travel from Punta Arenas airport to Teniente Marsh airfield on King George Island, Antarctica and from there they walked to the Escudero base where they were awaited with a full program of activities. , which wouldn’t give them much respite during your stay.
After lunch, the scientists briefly explained to them what they do and what their lines of research are. That day they also witnessed something unusual: they saw an emperor penguin, a specimen that does not usually live in that area. Immediately afterwards, students, logisticians and researchers slowly approached and kept at a distance to record this event with their cameras.
They then took a leisurely ride on the Isabel boat across the bay of Fildes to take water samples from the sector together with Sebastián Menéndez, a marine biologist and member of the INACH science department, to analyze them in the laboratory and find small crustaceans. They would also learn about the Transportable Antarctic Research Platform (TARP) laboratory with the climatologist from the University of Santiago de Chile, Diego Campos. This speech would be very relevant, since before 09:00 the next day they had to be at TARP to witness the launch of the radiosonde, a balloon-like device that is used to measure various atmospheric parameters.
For the next activity, the logistics staff directed them to the Artigas base in Uruguay to take a walk in an elephant colony where they could observe various species of sea lions, elephant seals, some seals, petrels, skuas, among others. . Lucas Krüger, INACH’s Antarctic bird specialist, guided the students to a colony of Antarctic petrels and then headed to the beach, where it was not easy to walk due to sea lions approaching when they felt human presence.
A few minutes later and with their share of the effort included, they made it to an old Russian retreat where they were able to enjoy a delicious breakfast of bread with treats, cereal bars, chocolates and oatmeal cookies. Lucas took the opportunity to show them the drone as a tool for counting bird populations. Then they began the return, crossing small streams that made it difficult for them to walk. Finally, the logistics staff brought them back to base.
Upon arrival, they changed their clothes and took turns in the shower, as they took care of preparing dinner for the entire base, about fifty people. The menu was chicken and fries, vegetable and peach soup for dessert. The young people took care of preparing and serving food, washing, putting away the dishes and leaving the dining room flawless.
On the third day they were about to set sail on the Karpuj, a boat that brought them closer to the Collins glacier and, given the good weather conditions, they reached the Potter peninsula where the Argentine base of Carlini is located. Much of the group stopped at the bow of the ship to appreciate and photograph the landscape, dazzled by the beauty of the ice and the crashing waves. But they also enjoyed the crew’s company, pleasant conversation and a delicious lunch of cheese empanadas, roast beef with rice, and delicious kneaded bread. Upon their return to base, they played bingo in the dining room, most of them suffering from seasickness, which fortunately ended with restful rest.
On the fourth day, they accompanied Dr. Gustavo Zúñiga from Usach and student Nicole Queirolo to sample mosses from a small hill near the base to subsequently measure the photosynthetic capacity of these plants in the laboratory and understand the effects of climate change. They also did a laboratory activity with Dr. Pedro Echeveste of the University of Antofagasta where they learned how sunscreens contribute to marine pollution and also had the opportunity to learn about the work on Antarctic algae done by Zambra López, Karin Gerard and Francisco Bahamonde, researchers from the University of Magallanes, and visited the diving cabinet in the company of specialized divers Yethro Henríquez and Bastián Añasco.
At night the young people organized an Antarctic karaoke in preparation for farewell and very sad they went to bed, organizing the bags for the return to Punta Arenas. But on Tuesday a strong storm broke out that would have prevented the arrival and departure of flights. Most were happy to stay an extra day at the base, albeit with some uncertainty, but all told their families that the flight was suspended.
As the wind did not stop, an activity was organized inside where they had to put together a science story in kamishibai (paper theater), the idea was to create a story based on what they had learned. these days with the support and advice of scientists, they draw, paint and then present it in front of the whole base.
The next day, even the flight would not depart due to the fog and poor visibility conditions, so a group of scientists and logisticians accompanied the EAE youth for a walk to another herd of elephants near the airfield of Lieutenant Marsh. And after lunch, they toured the surroundings of the base, Villa Las Estrellas, walked near the Russian base Bellingshausen and the Russian church, as well as enjoying another view from the hill behind the Escudero base.
On the seventh day the plane couldn’t even leave due to the thick fog, but they took the opportunity to walk calmly towards Ardley Isthmus, near the island where the gentoo and chinstrap penguins were. They found a spot with some snow, where they took the opportunity to have a snow monkey contest and slide or roll down. Happy but very wet, they returned to base. The afternoon would be quieter, as they would help the basic cooks prepare a delicious dinner.
On the eighth day, a conversation with scientists was organized. Each group talked about what the work with which they won the Antarctic School Fair consisted. Matías Rojas, Nicolás Morales and Professor Eniuska Azócar presented “Division in Larsen C: the story of the earthquakes that altered the geography of the Antarctic continent”. Then Matías Peña and Leandro Escobar, winners of the Social Sciences category, commented on their proposal: “Micrometry in Antarctica: a didactic proposal for the generation of knowledge, interest and care of the white continent on microbial scientific research”.
Then it was the turn of the winners of the bibliographic searches. First, Sofía Cerpa spoke about the “Effect of climate change on the immune system and susceptibility to diseases affecting Pygoscelis antarcticus and Pygoscelis adeliae in Antarctica” and Selena Pizarro and Diego Escobar told what it was like to do their job: ” Cryoconites in the McMurdo Drylands Valleys, glacial melting and its repercussions on Antarctic phytoplankton “. A very enriching dialogue was formed in which each researcher asked questions on different topics, providing constructive comments and also encouraging students to realize their dreams, regardless of their area.
In the afternoon they set sail again on Karpuj but the voyage was to Ardley Island. Most of them wanted to spend most of the trip off the ship, a tactic they used to avoid seasickness on the previous voyage. But incessant snow fell and many decided to go in and have eleven in the ship’s dining room. Fortunately it was a relatively smooth ride and no one got seasick.
On the ninth day they would finally go home, so in the morning they packed their bags, delivered them to the hangar and relaxed watching the movies on the second floor of the base. They took the opportunity to take the last group selfies and got back on the plane. Very grateful for the experience, some have commented that they want to return to Antarctica in the next few years, perhaps when they are undergraduate thesis students accompanying an Antarctic researcher or directly when they are already professionals. Only time will tell if we see them again. But regardless of which path they choose to follow, these experiences will accompany them throughout their lives.
If you are interested in living a similar experience in the White Continent, INACH invites you to submit your research proposal in Antarctica to the FAE, whose application process will be open until June 9, 2022. More information available on the website: www .inach . cl / fae and the email for inquiries: email@example.com