Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Brazilian base burns

Brazil established a presence in the Antarctic (1st and 2nd images) in 1984, staffing an island 80mi (129km) offshore with 15 year-round navy personnel plus the scientists who conduct research projects. A fire on the Comandante Ferraz Base on Saturday (3rd image) took the lives of 2 team members who were found dead in the debris and injured a 3rd who was stabilized* after transport to the Polish base. Defense Minister Celso Amorim stated, "In an act of heroism, they were precisely in the area of major risk in a bid to extinguish a fire and they did not succeed." The fire necessitated the evacuation of 44 people** to Chile's Antarctica station by helicopter, and from there to the Chilean mainland and back to Brazil by plane. A total of 12 soldiers stayed behind to try to fight the fire. The blaze - of uncertain origin - broke out in a building housing power generators and consumed roughly 70% of the station. "All the central core of the base, where the installations were concentrated, was lost. The exact extent of what occurred still needs to be determined, but the assessment is that we really lost virtually everything," Defense Minister Celso Amorim. According to the Proantar website, this includes well-equipped laboratories, workshops, an industrial kitchen, a bakery, a library, a multimedia auditorium, a gym, and a well-equipped infirmary. Left intact were the shelters; the laboratories of meteorology, chemistry, and atmospheric sciences; the fuel tanks; and the heliport. The fire follows the sinking of a barge shuttling diesel to the base in December. The barge, carrying 2,600 gallons (10,000 liters) of fuel, sank in a storm while being towed to shore. No one was aboard when it sank and the diesel has not leaked. Brazil will soon recover the vessel and began the 2-year process of rebuilding the Antarctic base yesterday.

To follow up on my recent post What is the opposite of stowaway, there is some question of whether the mechanic on board the Antarctic-bound Nilaya - identified as Maori activist Busby Noble, 53 - did in fact intend to join the unsanctioned expedition. Here are some of my earlier posts about the South Pole: Jackie and Jerri, Shackleton, Auto-appendectomy, and Aboard.

*Non-commissioned officer Carlos Alberto Vieira Figueiredo and First Sergeant Roberto Lopes dos Santos (killed) and Sergeant Luciano Gomes Medeiros (injured)
**An alpinist, a representative from the Ministry of Environment, 12 workers from the Arsenal de Marinha do Rio de Janeiro, and 30 scientists

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