Argentina's 2020/2021 Antarctic campaign successfully finished last week after the arrival of the Argentine Navy icebreaker “Almirante Irízar” at the port of Buenos Aires without registering any positive case of Covid-19 among its 392 crew members, military and scientists.
The icebreaker ARA Almirante Irízar arrived at the port of Buenos Aires after more than 5 months of work, which represents the longest Antarctic campaign without touching land, due to the fact that the entire crew had to carry out quarantines and comply with sanitary protocols in order to avoid coronavirus infections on the white continent.
Every campaign is historic and patriotic, but this one has a particularly unprecedented global context that has required all of us to adapt to a situation we never thought we would experience. It was your turn to carry out this very important activity, so I congratulate you on the result, said the Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, at the closing ceremony in Buenos Aires.
Vizzoti accompanied the Minister of Defence, Agustín Rossi, at the event, which on this occasion was highlighted by the application of health protocols in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The South Atlantic is a permanent geopolitical, military and strategic objective that Argentina must have, in which Antarctica clearly plays a very important role, said Minister Rossi at the ceremony held next to the ARA Almirante Irízar.
The Antarctic campaign was carried out through quarantines, psychophysical examinations, PCR tests for COVID-19 diagnosis, preventive isolations, air and land evacuation protocols, contingency plans for possible positive cases and strict controls, the Government reported.
The main mission of this season was to refold the largest amount of Antarctic rubbish, resupply and relieve the crews of six permanent bases (Orcadas, Marambio, San Martín, Carlini, Esperanza and Belgrano II), as well as to provide logistical support to scientific research under the orders of the Joint Antarctic Command under the Ministry of Defence, and the National Antarctic Directorate, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The icebreaker ARA Almirante Irízar – with two Sea King helicopters on board, belonging to the Second Aero-Naval Helicopter Squadron of the Naval Aviation –, together with the ARA Bahía Agradable and the ARA Canal Beagle transport, were the naval means in charge of carrying out the mission of resupplying and re-deploying personnel and material from the Antarctic bases.
Although due to the context of the pandemic the opening of the temporary bases was not carried out, during the course of the campaign some of them were inspected, such as Cámara, Petrel and Decepción, carrying out emergency repairs and gathering reports for their next openings. The Gurruchaga shelter was also inspected, from which it was possible to remove Antarctic rubbish.