Japan Planning 5th Scientific Research Base At Antarctica

Japan planning 5th scientific research base at AntarcticaJapan's Dome Fuji Station is located in the Antarctic interior and sits at an altitude of 3,810 meters. The lowest temperature recorded at the station was minus 79.7 degrees. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
As Japan marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of its first base in Antarctica on Jan. 29, its commitment to the southern continent remains solid, with a fifth base planned.

Japan will soon begin working toward construction of a new Antarctic base to continue with research into climate change over the past 1 million years.

Members of the 59th expedition team, who are scheduled to depart Japan in November, will select a location for the new research station. Plans call for the start of research after completion of the base in five years' time.

It will be the first for Japan since the Dome Fuji Station was opened in 1995. The first base was Syowa Station in 1957.

A key research objective of the new base will be to drill deep into the Antarctic ice to bring up ice cores and analyze them to search for answers about climate change.

The new base will be about 1,000 kilometers from the Antarctic coast, in an area where ice sheets are between 2,000 and 3,000 meters thick. By drilling into that ice, scientists hope to uncover clues that are believed to have formed about 1 million years ago.

Because of the harsh environment of the planned site, where temperatures can reach between minus 50 and minus 60 degrees, and with low levels of oxygen in the air, transporting construction materials and actually building the new base is expected to be a time- and labor-consuming process.

One option under consideration is a portable base that can be more easily assembled and moved into place.

Japan currently has two operating bases. Mizuho Station, which was opened in 1970, and Asuka Station, which opened in 1985, have both since been closed.

At the Dome Fuji Station, research conducted between 2003 and 2007 led to the drilling to a depth of 3,035 meters and retrieving a 720,000-year-old ice core.

The new base will be constructed near Dome Fuji Station.