The British Antarctic Survey

2 Nov

I did not know, before reading the obituary of Richard Laws that The British Antarctic Survey (of which Laws was Director in the 1970s and 80s), that the successful continuation of this hugely renowned scientific base was indirectly due to the Falklands War.
The Survey was pioneered by Sir Vivian Fuchs who gained government support for the present headquarters in Cambridge as well as research stations based on the Antarctic Peninsula. Fuchs’ work was continued by Laws who consolidated the BAS’s reputation as a multidisciplinary research institute, but had to battle against severe funding cuts by the BAS’s funding body, the National Environmental Research Council.
A new facility at King Edward Point (which had been threatened with closure) had only just been occupied when the Argentines arrived at the Point. The team were interned for a short time.
When South Georgia and the Falklands were recovered, Margaret Thatcher concluded that it was in the British interest to have a continued presence in the South Atlantic and Antarctica and that scientific work there should be supported. Increased funding followed and BAS scientists are amongst the world leaders in Antarctic science. In Halley, they were the first to discover the depletion of the ozone layer over the South Pole, a discovery that informed the world of the potential damage that man could inflict on our world. The peninsula bases and the BAS headquarters in Cambridge continue their international contribution.
The importance of the peninsula had been recognised in W.W.11. Operation ‘Tabarin’ was undertaken by the Admiralty and the Colonial Office in 1943.Its aim,to establish a permanent presence in the Antarctic in response to possible territorial claims by, amongst other countries,Germany and Argentina (the latter country already staffing a base in the South Orkney Islands which was started by the Scottish explorer William Speirs Bruce of the ‘Scotia’ expedition).
The area still remains a source of disagreement between Britain and Argentina

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