Belgium unveiled plans on Wednesday to build the first eco-friendly scientific base in Antarctica, as part of an internationally-organized year of polar activity.
The futuristic-style base will use only renewable energy and will recycle all its waste, said Alain Hubert, author of the project and head of the Internatioinal Polar Foundation.
Focused on conducting research into climate change, the Princess Elisabeth Station will be built 200 kilometres inside the arctic circle, in the east of the white continent, some 4 200 kilometres from South Africa.
All heat needed will be produced by solar panels, while power will also be generated ecologically, said the Belgian explorer, who made a wind-assisted crossing of the Antarctic in 1998 on foot and skis.
"We know that we have to change to make our life more sustainable to avoid drastically effecting the climate. Under these conditions, how could our research in the Antarctic not respect these principles?" asked Hubert.
The base, which should be built between November 2007 and February 2008, is expected to cost €6.4-millions, of which two million is provided by the Belgian government.
It will be built near a rockface, not far from a glacier and at the foot of the Sor Rondane mountain range, in a 1 500 square kilometre uninhabited zone between the Russian Novolazarevskaya outpost and Japan’s Syowa base. The site was chosen during expeditions in 2004 and 2005.
The location enjoys a micro climate which should allow scientists to better study the factors which influence climate change.
The octagonal base, 20 metres across, will be built out of metal, composite materials as well as wood, set upon pillars driven into the rock, according to the plans presented in Brussels.
It will initially be a summer base, occupied by a maximum of 30 researchers for four months of the year, from November to February. Ultimately it is designed to last for about 25 years.
The project marks a return to Antarctica for Belgium, which blazed the trail in the winter of 1897-1899 with the legendary "Belgica" expedition, which made a name for the explorer Adrien de Gerlache.
The new base will be some 200 kilometres away from another outpost, the "Roi Baudouin" (King Baudoin), inaugurated during the last international polar year (1957-1958) and abandoned in 1967.