BTA News

32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition Presents Scientific Projects, New Lab Construction at Base on Livingston Island

Ten scientific projects, new opportunities for research with microscopes and ocean sampling equipment delivered on board the Bulgarian naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii and plans to continue the construction of a new scientific laboratory unit at the St. Kliment Ohridski Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island were presented at a three-day training camp of the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition in the Marina Cape complex in Aheloy, Burgas Region, which ended on Sunday.

The voyage to Antarctica and the stay in the Bulgarian base of the Bulgarian naval research vessel will last about five months, from early November 2023 until early April 2024, Commanding Officer Nikolay Danailov told the scientists and logisticians in Aheloy. The second expedition of the Bulgarian ship to Antarctica will be named ANTARSUP-23, from “Antarctic Support” because its main mission is to support scientific research on the continent.

The research of scientists from the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute, the St Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS), the National Sports Academy (NSA) and the Naval Academy of Varna will focus on the natural resources of Livingston Island and the waters around its group of the South Shetland Islands, as well as on climate change in Antarctica.

Chief Asst Professor Ralitsa Sabeva from the Department of Mineralogy, Petrology and Mineral Resources of the Faculty of Geology and Geography of Sofia University will study ore deposits in the area of Hurd Peninsula on Livingston Island with an emphasis on their metallogenic potential and the genetic relationship between them. Prof Christo Pimpirev, leader of the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition, told BTA this is about research of copper, gold and silver veins on the island.

Assoc Prof Tihomir Stefanov from the National Museum of Natural History at BAS will study the species composition and biological features of fish inhabiting the coastal marine waters in the area of the base.

Prof Eliza Uzunova from Sofia University’s Faculty of Biology will work on potential ichthyo pathogens in Antarctic fishes in a changing climate.

Assoc Prof Lyubomir Kenderov from Sofia University’s Faculty of Biology and Assoc Prof Raina Hristova from the Institute of Oceanology of BAS – Varna will continue integrated research of the sediment, biota and water components of the ocean ecosystem.

Engineer Petar Sapundzhiev from the National Institute of Geophysics, Geology and Geography of BAS will work on the optimization of permanent solar-powered geophysical instrumentation for application in polar conditions. He will also investigate the movement of glacial structures using Particle Image Velocimetry.

Engineer Tsvetan Parov from the BAS Space Research and Technology Institute will work on the influence of surface meteorological parameters and solar activity on the variation of atmospheric processes in glacier drainage-crack systems.

Prof Nesho Chipev from BAS, former Director of the Central Laboratory of General Ecology and Scientific Secretary for Biological Sciences of BAS, will work on the opportunities for Bulgarian science diplomacy against the background of global climate change and the future of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Prof. Albena Alexandrova from the NSA and the Institute of Neurology of BAS will conduct new functional research of scientific and applied significance as first steps in the One Health approach.

Marina Velikova, a musician and music editor at the Bulgarian National Radio’s Horizon Programme, presented her project entitled “The Sounds of Antarctica” for recording of the natural sounds of the continent and weaving them into original compositions.

Engineers Nevyan Simeonov and Kiril Zhechev from Simsta Engineering Ltd. presented plans for the organization and implementation of the construction of the new laboratory unit at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base. Simeonov said the goal is to roughly complete the building designed by architect Penka Stancheva. On an area of 400 square metres, it will house three laboratories – geological, biological and general, a multifunctional hall with workplaces, a storage facility, a technical room and recreation rooms. “We hope to have the laboratory unit ready next year, but nothing can be planned in Antarctica,” said Simeonov.

He explained that during this expedition a metal structure will be laid on the foundations built during the previous expedition. The parts of the metal structure weigh about 50 tonnes, with the longest, 10-metre, one weighing 450 kilograms. High-quality thermal panels will also be installed, which weigh around 22 tonnes. In total, the building materials already loaded on the ship weigh more than 80 tonnes. A 15-metre boom crane will be used in the construction. The installations and minor finishing works will be left for next year. Solar panels on the roof and two diesel generators will supply power. The new laboratory complex will have a water tank and pumping stations. “This facility should enter the 22nd century,” Prof Pimpirev said.

Nevyan Simeonov said his company will design for free a project for reconstruction of the Bulgarian Antarctic Base.

During this expedition, there are plans to install a new water treatment plant, to upgrade the water supply from the nearby glacier to the houses and provide new power supply to some buildings, Base Commander Kamen Nedkov said.

He said the Bulgarian Antarctic base is scheduled to open at the end of December at the time of the arrival of the Bulgarian ship and to operate for about 90 days. The ship will initially take 24 scientists and logisticians to the base. More scientists will arrive by plane and aboard partner countries’ ships in January and early February 2024. A total of 16 logisticians will support the scientists on two shifts, with two doctors, cooks, mechanics and electrical engineers rotating in January, as well as boat drivers for the Zodiac rubber boats used in research. In mid-February, after the departure of the Bulgarian ship, a group will remain at the base until mid-March to prepare it for the winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

There will be scientists from other countries at the base and sometimes more than 30 people will gather there, apart from the crew of the Bulgarian ship. It will also transport containers of materials and food for the Spanish Antarctic expedition. The ship will also transport food for the Bulgarian expedition donated by Kaufland.

During the first and last stages of the voyage from Varna to the Spanish port of Cartagena and back, cadets from the Naval Academy in Varna will get short-term training practice, and four cadets will stay during the entire voyage.

After Cartagena, where the Spanish containers will be loaded, the ship is likely to stop for refuelling in the Brazilian port of Rio Grande, and will then visit the Argentine naval base in Mar del Plata, where an Argentine naval officer will board the ship to help with navigation on the voyage to Livingston Island. This will be an opportunity to strengthen cooperation between Bulgaria and Argentina.

After a stopover in Argentina’s southernmost port of Ushuaia and sailing through the Beagle Channel and Drake Passage past Cape Horn, the Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii is expected to arrive at Livingston Island around Christmas.

The Bulgarian ship will remain in the Southern Ocean for about 50 days. After unloading the materials for the new laboratory complex and operating at the base for at least 40 days, the ship will provide research and project activities such as net launching, sampling, including bottom sampling, etc. There are plans for projects on the hard-to-reach Byers Peninsula on Livingston Island and on the unexplored neighbouring Smith Island, as well as a visit to the Spanish base on Deception Island.

The Bulgarian ship will also take some of the waste accumulated on the coast at the Bulgarian Base during the years when Bulgaria did not have its own ship.

On the way back in February 2024, the Bulgarian naval research vessel will stop in the Argentine town of Comodoro Rivadavia, which has a large community of Bulgarian expats whose association bears the same name as the ship.

After stops for refuelling and other materials again in Mar del Plata and Cartagena, the Bulgarian ship will visit the Italian military academy in Taranto and is expected to return to Varna in early April 2024.

The scientists and logisticians on the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition will be given medical tests at the National Sports Academy, said Dr Atanas Peltekov, who will be the physician at the Bulgarian base. He will be replaced by Dr Sevdalina Mihailova when the teams rotate. Dr Maria Yakova will be the ship’s doctor.

The Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) will present all scientific projects during the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition with videos, photos and stories prepared together with the scientists before their departure, said BTA Director General Kiril Valchev, who joined the Antarctic camp in Aheloy. He said BTA will again publish detailed coverage of the voyage in the Bulgaria-Antarctica BTA’s Log as it did during the historic first voyage of the previous expedition between December 27, 2022 and May 2, 2023. Back then, only BTA had a correspondent, Daily News Editor Konstantin Karagyozov, who covered the 127-day expedition with text, video and photos during the entire voyage (including across the Atlantic in both directions) and throughout the stay in Antarctica. In June, BTA published in Bulgarian and in English an issue of its LIK magazine “To Antarctica and Back under the Bulgarian Flag” dedicated to the historic expedition.

Again, all of BTA’s information on the Bulgarian scientific research in Antarctica and the support provided by the Bulgarian naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii, as well as on the other activities at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base, will be available to all media outlets in Bulgarian and in English on BTA’s website in the Bulgaria – Antarctica: BTA’s Log section.

BTA has a National Press Club on board the ship and is planning to open a National Press Club at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island.