Australia Drops Massive Project for Its First Paved Runway in Antarctica, After Five Years

Antarctica is a territory that’s difficult to “conquer” even today, with all the available advancements in technology. A good example of that is the recent announcement made by Australia’s environment minister, Sussan Ley, confirming that the country’s massive infrastructure project in the area has been dropped.
The Australian Antarctic program currently operates from the Wilkins aerodrome, open only during summer 6 photos
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The Australian Antarctic Program operates a blue-ice runway at the Wilkins Aerodrome, which is only accessible through the summer. In order to gain year-round access, even for larger aircraft operated by the Australian Air Force, the country was planning to build a new runway in the region. The impressive project would have been not only the country’s first paved runway in Antarctica, but most likely the biggest engineering project ever launched on the continent – according to the Strategist.

Research and feasibility studies for the future runway began five years ago, but now everything came to a halt. It seems that the decision to stop is mostly due to environmental concerns, in order to “protect Antarctica’s pristine wilderness.” The 2,700-meter (8,858 feet) long runway, located at 4.5 km (2.7 miles) away from Australia’s Davis Station, in Vestfold Hills, would have been associated with a significant impact on the natural surroundings.

But it’s more than that, because the runway would also be extremely time-consuming and expensive. As the official statement highlights, this would have been a 20-year construction process, involving a lot of resources and manpower. According to the Strategist, the total cost of the Davis runway would have been the equivalent of several large regional airports in Australia. Not to mention that all of this would have been undertaken in one of the harshest environments on the planet, making things even more difficult.

It wasn’t all in vain, though. All the environmental and financial data acquired over the course of the past five years will be used for alternative projects meant to enhance Australia’s strategic capabilities. Until then, the country’s Antarctic program will continue to operate from the Wilkins aerodrome, with additional support at sea, from the Nuyina polar research vessel, considered the most advanced of its kind, in the world.
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Editor's note: The images in the gallery are for illustration purposes only.

About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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