The official Argentine 2020/21 Antarctic season was launched last Friday with a ceremony at the Buenos Aires Navy pier where the icebreaker “ARA Almirante Irizar” was docked, but with no authorities boarding the vessel to avoid any possible coronavirus contagion.
The ceremony was headed by cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero, Defense and Foreign Affairs ministers, Agustin Rossi and Felipe Solá, plus all the commanders in chief of the three services and Joint Staff. The national hymn was played followed by a short religious service, and then came the speeches.
Antarctica is a permanent objective of Argentine foreign policy. This year we've cut the number of personnel, both military and scientists, and summer transitory stations will not be opened. We've made the greatest of efforts to ensure Antarctica remains free of coronavirus, said defense minister Rossi.
He added that to avoid contagion the whole of the crew and others on board the Irizar, and from the support vessels have complied with a strict quarantine before embarking. A great bubble has been implemented to comply with all the objectives we have planned and ensure that today the vessel can depart.
Rossi revealed that contrary to previous seasons, when Admiral Irizar returned several time from Antarctica during the season, this time it will only make two return cruises to Ushuaia, because the logistics vessel, ARA Canal Beagle will make the necessary trips from Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego.
Cabinet chief Cafiero, representing president Alberto Fernandez, said the head of state extended his best wishes and congratulations to the crew and scientists, as well as his standing acknowledgement to the ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces for their dedication to the Antarctica seasons.
The Antarctic campaign reflects a new policy which we have incorporated in these times of pandemic, but which was being developed for a long time in the previous seasons and that is looking after our sovereignty and our natural resources, pointed out the cabinet chief.
Cafiero also took the opportunity to enumerate all the efforts by the current Argentine government to combat the pandemic ensuring no Argentine was left without medical attention or some sort of financial help, while at the same time blaming the current situation to the mismanagement of the previous administration.
Finally the Commander of the Antarctic Joint Command, Colonel Edgar Calandin requested to the cabinet chief authorization for the departure of Almirante Irizar, thus formally launching the 120-day Antarctica season.
The refurbished icebreaker has a total personnel of 241, 59 of which are women and besides resupplying the Argentine Antarctic bases will be supporting several scientific programs. All personnel has undergone quarantine either in the vessel or at the Peace Operations Training Grounds. Of the thirteen permanent Argentine bases, only six will be visited, while in the others there will be a maintenance call.
The icebreaker will be operating with support vessels, ARA Bahía Agradable and ARA Malvinas, the transport ARA Canal Beagel and two Sea King helicopters. The Argentine mission is also scheduled to transport goods and equipments for Uruguay and Brazil bases.