Space Science on Ice – the life of an Antarctic adventurer

  • Duration: 75min
  • Language: English
  • Ages: All Ages
  • Date: July 21, 2020 18:00
  • Recorded: Live session with recording available afterwards
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Steve Sherman in conversation with Mpati Boleme (Antarctic Electronics Engineer), Jonathan Ward (SANSA Engineering Manager), Thomas Chauque (SANSA Instrumentation Technician) and Prof. Mike Kosch (SANSA Chief Scientist).

Antarctica, a continent often described as the coldest, windiest, driest, least populated and most remote corner of the world is not a place for the faint-hearted. Yet, those brave enough to journey there will forever have a deep connection to this icy wonderland.

As part of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), South Africa maintains a permanent research base in Antarctica for scientists to participate in various research programmes. The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) operates 80% of the instruments located at the South African Antarctic research base SANAE IV. These instruments monitor our near-earth space environment and provide vital data for space science research. SANSA engineers live at the base throughout the year in order to maintain and develop these systems, while ensuring that meaningful data is transferred back to the Space Agency.

This discussion, brought to you by Scifest Africa and SANSA takes you on a journey of discovery as to what life is like at the South African Antarctic research base. Hear all about the exciting adventures, traditions, unique challenges, incredible beauty that the SANSA Antarctic Engineers experience when they journey to the land of ice and snow, making for some fascinating research that they will share with us.

** Something extra special to look forward to? A video message from Antarctic Engineers, Pierre Retief and Vhulahani Manukha who are currently working at the Antarctic base! *”


South Africa’s involvement in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands dates back to the earliest voyages of discovery, due to the then Cape of Good Hope’s position as a stopover for explorers, whalers and sealers.

After World War II, South Africa became more formally involved, undertaking meteorological expeditions to the Prince Edward Islands (Marion and Prince Edward Islands). A permanent weather station was established on Marion and the annexation by SA of these islands was concluded in 1948. In 1959 the first South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) was undertaken, establishing a permanent presence on Antarctica that endures to this day.

In 2003, Cabinet approved the transfer of scientific research functions of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) to the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

As of 2005, DEA and DST have agreed to some exciting additions to the research opportunities offered by SANAP. The research community is challenged to “break the ice” (without the S.A. Agulhas this time) and thrash out creative ideas and new directions. Researchers in the social sciences (politics, international relations, and sociologists), humanities (literary studies, visual arts and cultural studies) and law (Law of the Sea) as well as engineering can now participate in SANAP.

SANAP plays a crucial role in conserving this living laboratory – the coldest, windiest and driest place on Earth. Studies done in the Antarctic are inextricably linked to our understanding of the entire Earth system and signals in Antarctica indicate past and future global changes. SANAP recognises the global and national importance of safeguarding the environment of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean and protecting the integrity of ecosystems, both marine and terrestrial, in the region.

The programme takes cognisance of the presence of natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) and the increased interest in their possible utilisation (both consumptive and non-consumptive)