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Antarctic research cancelled due to Covid-19

Image: Jerzy Strzelecki [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

UK and US research programmes will not carry out fieldwork in Antarctica until 2021

Covid-19 has led to a major scaling back of research programmes in Antarctica by both the UK and the United States. On 9 June, the British Antarctic Survey announced that it could not “support ‘deep-field’ research campaigns during the 2020-21 season”, while the US Antarctic Program has postponed all but essential activities.

“Antarctica is the only continent free of the Covid-19 virus, but our operations and science there have been severely affected by restrictions in the rest of the world,” said BAS director Jane Francis.

Agencies in both the UK and the US are planning for the replacement of staff in Antarctica before the next winter season, as well as critical maintenance activities to keep research stations running. The BAS is also considering maintaining some field equipment and construction work at the Rothera Research Station.

Alison Banwell, a glaciologist from the University of Colorado Boulder, tweeted that it was time to accept that fieldwork was out of the question for the year. “Let’s hope the data on our deployed instruments stay safe until the following year,” she said.