Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chile Seeks to Widen Influence in Antarctica

Raising the flag in Antarctica
Chile's Air Force has started work on a base at the Union Glacier, the country's deepest penetration into Antarctica. It is roughly 600 miles from the South Pole and inside the Polar Circle, where temperatures habitually are around -20 Fahrenheit. The base is one of four small Chilean bases used mainly for scientific research, and is one of the few places on the continent with a runway long enough to land Hercules C-130s. But there's a lot more to the project than just penguin watching. President Sebastian PiƱera is making Antarctica a territorial priority amid claims by Britain and other countries in the region. He made Chile's stakes clear, visiting the base site himself to make the point and plant the Chilean flag. "The government wants to take another step to reinforce our presence...in Antarctica," the president said. The base "will allow us to project our country into the Antarctic Continent, the continent of the future." Only the U.S. and China have bases as far south as Union Glacier. Update: A story by UPI expands on Chile's ambitions for Antarctica.

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