Antarctica is essential to the balance of the global environment. Its near pristine wilderness, its peace and inspiration and the opportunities it provides for scientific research are all profoundly significant to humanity. Before all else the Antarctic environment must be protected. The Antarctica Treaty, governing Antarctica, has sought to achieve this end. Non-the less, many environmentally degrading practices continue unabated. These practices need to be identified and a comprehensive environmental protection strategy developed. Antarctica" s isolation and harshness has demanded the support of highly engineered built infrastructure. There is a burgeoning acknowledgment that much of this infrastructure is destroying the environment and extraordinarily expensive, which in turn compromises and bleeds research programs, and is an embarrassment to many nations. The source of these problems is twofold: political and economic short-sightedness; and the reliance of Antarctic engineering on the simplistic application of polar technology based on Arctic research and experience. A new integrated philosophy of engineering is proposed based on Antarctic conditions, environmental protection, human significance and life-cycle cost-effectiveness. Two feasibility studies of projects, one large and one small, provide a glimpse of the substantial environmental, scientific, inspirational, commercial and Treaty benefits of built Infrastructure employing such an engineering philosophy.
Consistent problems are evident in the current engineering of Antarctic built infrastructure. The objective is to: outline these problems; identify their source; and demonstrate a new philosophy for their solution.
Because Antarctica is the most extreme continent on earth, virtually 100% of everything required for human presence has to be imported. Pennanent land-based survival and endeavour has always demanded the support of highly engineered built infrastructure. In 1987-88 there were in excess of 43 permanently occupied, 32 permanent summer stations and a number of field camps.