Saturday, 5 December 2015

Base San Martín, Barry Island
- red on white

Marguerite Bay (Bahía Margarita), on the west coast of the southern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, was chosen for its relatively mild climate and friendly shores to be the location of several antarctic polar stations. I've written about Rothera (UK) sometime ago, and in its vicinity is San Martin, an Instituto Antártico Argentino (IAA) base.

Marguerite Bay is a large and deep bay, but the access is quite difficult most of the year because the water surface is frozen, or dangerously covered with moving ice floes. Small islands, underwater cliffs and rocks compose a net of narrow navigable canals. Only during the short antarctic summer is the route easy for supply ships as well as for tourist cruises or scientific expeditions.

'Roman Four' promontory, a 830 m high cliff with the form of IV.

Barry Island was first charted by the British Graham Land Expedition (BGLE) under John Riddoch Rymill, who used it for a base in 1936 and 1937. He also named it after the eldest son of an expedition member.

On one of the small islets, Argentina built in 1951 a small station for scientific purposes, a few scattered red buildings that are easily visible from the sea.

San Martín, Barry Island.

Coordinates:  68° 07´ S , 67° 06´ W
       350 km south of the Antarctic circle.
Occupation:  ~ 20, all year round.

Base San Martín is a permanent, all year-round Antarctic base for scientific research on climate, seismology and geodesics.

The increased Antarctic activity that Argentina developed since 1940, along with the interest to exercise effective sovereignty over one of the most remote areas of Antarctica, created the need for a scientific station located south of the Antarctic Circle.

The main house, at right: dormitory, canteen and leisure rooms. At left, the laboratory.

A quick description: one two-story main house with double wooden walls, an emergency house, five metal warehouses for supplies, housing for the dog packs, a power generator and the four towers for the 25 meters high antenna.

The Radio Station and communication antennas.

The IAA meteorological station within the base has been for long providing detailed weather records and developing forecasts for the navigation of the sea waters adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula.

San Martín looking at the red laboratory.

The station's main house.

At the time of its foundation in 1951, it was the first human settlement south of the Antarctic Circle.

The oceanographic ship ARA Puerto Deseado.

In order to transport the personnel and materials to Marguerite Bay, the navy has several polar ships, some with ice-breaking capacities.

The Almirante Irizar, bought from Russia.

All emergency - supply, rescue missions - are usually done by helicopter, and in winter relief crew comes by helicopter transfer. In adequate weather conditions, the team can also be reached by plane.

The Twin Otter is the most popular light plane for polar operations.

The regular post delivery is a basic need for the crew.

Two Glaciars - Uspallata and McClary - face Barry Island. Now, just look how magnificent is Marguerite Bay and its glaciars at sunset, or during the midnight sun by the antarctic summer solstice: