SANAE IV is a current South African Antarctic research base located in Vesleskarvet, Queen Maud Land. The base is part of the South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP) and is operated by the South African National Antarctic Expedition.[4]

South African National Antarctic Expedition IV
SANAE IV on top of the southern buttress of Vesleskarvet.
SANAE IV on top of the southern buttress of Vesleskarvet.
Location of SANAE IV in Antarctica
Location of SANAE IV in Antarctica
Location of SANAE IV in Antarctica
Coordinates: 71°40′25″S 2°49′43″W / 71.673611°S 2.828611°W / -71.673611; -2.828611
Country South Africa
Location in AntarcticaVesleskarvet
Queen Maud Land
Administered bySouth African National Antarctic Program
Established1997; 26 years ago (1997)
Elevation850 m (2,790 ft)
 • Summer
 • Winter
TypeAll year-round
  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geomorphology

The other two SANAP bases are located on the Gough and Marion islands.

Location Edit

Located in the Queen Maud Land region of Eastern or Greater Antarctica, SANAE IV is on top of a distinctive flat-topped nunatak, Vesleskarvet, on the fringe of the Ahlmann Range of mountains. The base is approximately 80 kilometres (50 mi) from the edge of the continent (also known as the grounding line or hinge zone) and 160 kilometres (99 mi) from the edge of the ice shelf. Vesleskarvet is completely surrounded by the glacial ice sheet.

Concept Edit

The first three SANAE research stations were located on the Fimbul Ice Shelf near the coast, and were subject to the gradual snow burial and eventual crushing that occurs with all stations constructed in this fashion. With a vision of creating a more permanent station, SANAE IV was completed in 1997 using a design which was revolutionary at the time - a structure raised on stilts which allows snow to blow through underneath and thus limits deposition.

By constructing the base near the cliffs of Vesleskarvet, the concept was advanced further: snow that would collect downwind of the base and eventually advance to cover it is instead blown off the 250 m high cliffs into the wind-scoop beyond. By virtue of this feature, the station should far exceed the short useful life of its predecessors, and the raised design has since been applied to newer stations, such as the British Antarctic Survey's new Halley Research Station and Germany's new Neumayer-Station III.

The station has an orange coloured roof for better visibility from the air. The underside of the station used to be painted in a blue colour which in theory was warmed somewhat by the sun and contributed to reducing the build-up of ice underneath the station. In 1999 the South African minister of Environment and Tourism decided that this colour scheme is too reminiscent of South Africa's old flag, and ordered the orange roof to be painted bright red.[5][6] Eventually, the roof remained orange and the blue underside was painted orange as well.[7]

Base layout Edit

SANAE IV consists of three linked modules, each double-story, 44 metres (144 ft) long and 14 metres (46 ft) wide. Two smaller nearby structures contain the satellite dish used for communications and the diesel fuel bunkers. Joined end-on-end in a north–south orientation, the base modules are complemented on the northern end by a large raised helicopter landing area with a lifting section allowing vehicles to be brought up into the hangar for maintenance.

C-block, the northernmost module, contains the large hangar, generator room, workshop, water storage, sewage processing plant, equipment stores, offices of the mechanical and electrical engineers, flight operations office, gymnasium and sauna. The neutron monitors of the North-West University[8] are also housed in this area.

B-block, the middle module, contains the kitchen, dining area, two TV lounges, bar, games room, smoker's room, library, a laundry and accommodation units.

A-block, the southern module, contains the radio room and communications hub, medical facility, darkroom, various research project offices, leader's office, two physics labs, wet lab, store-rooms, another laundry, and accommodation units.

The modules are linked by single-story connections that also serve as entrances with stairways down to the surface 4m below the base. Each link contains an entrance hall with two sets of doors (creating a rudimentary 'air-lock' to prevent excessive cooling when entering and exiting the base) as well as a change-room, ablution facility and electronic distribution boards.

Facilities Edit

Airport typePrivate
Time zone(+2)
Elevation AMSL2,647 ft / 807 m
Coordinates71°40′21″S 2°49′29″W / 71.672389°S 2.824861°W / -71.672389; -2.824861
Location of airfield in Antarctica
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17/35 3,274 998 Snow

The base generates power using three diesel generators. Water is generated by manually shovelling snow into a snow smelter, which then melts the snow and ice and pumps water automatically into the holding tanks. Waste water and sewerage is treated within the base, with the only by-product being clean water which is then released back into the environment. All refuse is sorted, crushed and sealed in empty fuel drums for return to South Africa.

Although the base is well insulated by its 0.5-metre (1 ft 8 in) thick walls and triple-glazed windows, the internal areas have to be actively warmed. This is accomplished by three means. Firstly, the heat generated by the diesel generators is used to heat water for the taps and showers, which is then circulated through the base. Secondly, the same generator heat is used to heat air which is distributed by the climate control system. Thirdly, small electric wall and fan heaters are available in all indoor areas. Efforts are made to maintain the interior temperature at 18 °C (64 °F), although some areas (such as the hangar) do cool well below this in winter.

SANAE IV has advanced communications capabilities using both satellite and radio systems. A permanent satellite connection to the SANAP headquarters in Cape Town provides three telephone lines and one fax line, and near-broadband internet access. Team members in Antarctica enjoy fast internet access which allows them to correspond with colleagues and stay in contact with friends and family.

Staff Edit

The base is staffed and maintained year-round by a team of scientists and support personnel. Each overwintering team arrives during the summer expedition and take-over period aboard the research and logistics vessel S. A. Agulhas II, stays at the base through the austral winter and returns to South Africa at the end of the next summer season - an expedition of approximately 16 months. The summer expedition and re-supply team (excluding ship's crew) consists of 80–100 persons, and includes administrative staff, heavy vehicle operators, helicopter crew, maintenance staff, the new overwintering team and a large scientific contingent. During the brief summer (typically December/January to February/March) the base must be resupplied with food, equipment and fuel, all waste products must be removed for transport back to South Africa, the new overwintering team must receive on-site training, and scientific investigations which cannot be undertaken in the winter months (such as extended field-work) must be completed.

The overwintering team remains at the base alone and isolated between the months of March and December. To be fully self-sufficient, the team typically consists of the following personnel:

  • An electronic engineer who doubles as communications technician,
  • A mechanical engineer responsible for the base systems
  • An electrical engineer who manages power generation and distribution
  • Two diesel mechanics responsible for maintenance of the diesel generators, heavy vehicles and skidoos
  • A meteorologist who performs both observations and forecasting
  • A cosmic ray physicist/engineer responsible for various research projects
  • A high frequency radar physicist/engineer responsible for the auroral radar projects
  • A third scientist responsible for the International Polar Year projects and other installations
  • A medical doctor

An expedition leader is selected from the overwintering team prior to the departure of the expedition, and a deputy elected to serve in his place should the need arise. The expedition leader is responsible for administrative tasks and reports to the South African National Antarctic Programme headquarters in South Africa.

Research Edit

A balloon floats into the sky as it is partially filled.

SANAE IV's reason for existence is to provide a permanent year-round base for scientists undertaking research projects under the auspices of SANAP. Investigations carried-out year-round are predominantly in the physical sciences, while the summer months allow research in more diverse fields such as oceanography, biology, geology and geomorphology. Recent projects have also focused on sources of renewable energy such as solar and particularly wind power generation. There is not currently any formal medical research being undertaken.

Ongoing physical science research programs includes the Antarctic Magnetospheric and Ionospheric Ground-based Observation (AMIGO),[10]: 5  Southern Hemisphere Auroral Radar Experiment (SHARE)[10]: 5  and Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN), Antarctic Research on Cosmic Rays (ANOKS),[10]: 5  very low frequency (VLF) radio research and various International Polar Year projects.[11][12]

Detailed information about the research projects may be found under the research section of the SANAP webpage[12]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Antarctic Station Catalogue (PDF) (catalogue). Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs. August 2017. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-473-40409-3. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 October 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  2. ^ "SANAE IV". South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. Retrieved 2 February 2009.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "SANAE Teams". South African National Antarctic Programme. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  4. ^ "General Information". South African National Antarctic Programme. Archived from the original on 26 January 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  5. ^ "Laaste oranje-blanje-blou byt in die ys". Beeld (in Afrikaans). 24 March 2001. Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  6. ^ Brümmer, Willemien (24 March 2001). "Sanae IV kry nuwe politieke baadjie". Die Burger (in Afrikaans).
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Unit for Space Physics: Neutron Monitor Data". North-West University. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  9. ^ "SANAE IV Skiway". Airport Nav Finder. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Cooper, John (June 2006). "ANTARCTICA AND ISLANDS - Background Research Paper produced for the South Africa Environment Outlook report on behalf of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 December 2015. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Programmes". SA Space Portal of the National Research Foundation of South Africa. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  12. ^ a b "SANAP Research". South African National Antarctic Programme. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2009.

External links Edit