It's like getting stabbed, a tourist exclaims as he plunges into the three degree Celsius water, all under the intrigued gaze of a group of penguins. All around Half Moon Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, blocks of ice of all sizes float by on a calm sea, their varying forms resembling weightless origami shapes.
A strong controversy is expected following statements from Chilean officials who downplayed the significance of the recent UN continental shelf maritime extension referred to Argentina and which included the Falklands, South Atlantic Islands and Antarctica territory.
A symbolic ceremony launching the reconstruction of Brazil's Comandante Ferraz Antarctic base was held at the Chilean Antarctic Institute in Punta Arenas with the attendance of top officials from both countries. The Brazilian base, located in King George Island was a total loss back in February 2012 caused by a fire that started at the power room.
Punta Arenas in the extreme south of Chile is encouraged by the cruise industry prospects for its port and facilities: this season Norwegian Sun has returned with at least ten calls and for 2016/2017 a line will be cruising to Antarctica with Punta Arenas as a home port.
An estimated 250 scientists from several countries will be working at Chile’s Antarctic bases during the austral summer (December 21/March 21) in different projects such as global warming and climate change, reported the Chilean Antarctic Institute, INACH, based in Punta Arenas.
Visiting Chilean president Sabastian Piñera and PM David Cameron reaffirmed the two countries long standing close relations, pledged to increase trade and acknowledged their views on the Falkland Islands and the coming referendum during a meeting on Thursday at 10 Downing Street.
The tragedy in the Antarctic King George Island involving the Brazilian base should be “a great lesson for Chile” and is evidence that research scientists and military personnel coexist in Antarctica under “improvised conditions”.