Chile opens new research center in Antarctica

President Piñera traveled to the edge of the Earth to celebrate the inauguration of a new joint-research center that will lay foundation for scientific discovery.

Deep into the Antarctic Circle, sitting in a seemingly barren white landscape is the newest Chilean government facility — the Joint Polar Research Station on Union Glacier.

On Jan. 4, President Sebastián Piñera as well as Foreign Affairs Minister, Alfredo Moreno; the Defense Minister, Rodrigo Hinzpeter; and the Secretary General of the Government, Cecilia Pérez, ventured into the depths of Antarctica to celebrate the inauguration.

“We are here today to open this new base within the Antarctic Circle. This facility, the American Scott-Amundsen base and the Chinese Kunlun base are the only three bases within the Antarctic Circle,” Piñera said, celebrating the milestone for Chile and Chilean researchers.

The research base will house personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy as well as  scientists from the National Antarctic Institute (INACH). Its primary functions will be to establish a Chilean presence in the area, to develop and pursue advanced scientific research and to further explore the White Continent.

“Chile must look toward this continent of the future, and this is why we are here today to take a very important step in opening the Chilean Joint Research Base,” Piñera said. “I want to share with you all this moving and highly important moment, as Chile, fulfilling its historical duty and its vocation for the future, upholds its sovereignty and presence on this White Continent.”

Chile already has five permanent bases in Antarctica, with two summer bases that have allowed the country’s dedicated scientists and researchers to delve into the mysteries locked in the ice covered continent.

Last year, two high school students were awarded the 2013 Stockholm Junior Water prize for their work successfully identifying a dozen bacterial strains that can, at very low temperatures, metabolize the dangerous contaminants that result from an oil spill.

Other Chilean researchers have been uncovering a key prehistoric link between Antarctica and Chile that could reveal an entire chapter of the Earth’s history still unknown to scientists.

Now with this newest addition to Chile’s Antarctic institutions, the country hopes to build on the work already being done and to push further into the white content where there is still so much to learn.