COMNAP Representative (MNAP): Rachid Touzani
About the Belgian Antarctic Program
The Belgian Antarctic Research Program is coordinated and managed by the Federal Science Policy (BELSPO) office since 1985. As a result of the efforts of the family de Gerlache, who organised the first scientific overwintering expedition (1897-1899) and constructed the first Belgian research station called Roi Baudouin in Antarctica (1957-1958), Belgium was one of the twelve initial signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. After the closure of the Roi Baudouin base (1976), a period of discontinuous activities followed. In 1985, Belgium resumed its Antarctic activities at the scientific level with a multi-annual research program, while at the political level, Belgium took active part in the development of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991.
In 2007-2008, Belgium constructed a new research station in Antarctica. This station replaces the former Belgian Roi Baudouin base, built in 1958 at Breid Bay in Dronning Maud Land, closed in 1967. The Belgian government commissioned the International Polar Foundation to coordinate the design and construction phases of the station project. The construction of the station was done in the austral summer of 2007-2008.
The station was erected on the Utsteinen Ridge (71°57’S; 023°21’E), situated at the foot of the Sør Rondane Mountains, Dronning Maud Land, 173 km inland from the former Roi Baudouin base (1958-1967). Positioned halfway between the Japanese Syowa station (684 km) and the Russian Novolazarevskaya station (431 km) it fills in a 1072 km unoccupied stretch between these two stations in one of the least occupied sectors of Antarctica that has only been intermittently investigated since the International Geophysical Year (IGY).
This is the first “Zero Emission” station, run entirely on renewable energies. In designing and building the Princess Elisabeth station, the objective was to use existing technologies. These were combined to create a building that is a lot more than the sum of its parts.
Integrating these sustainable and energy saving technologies in such an iconic project was a challenge. The very shape of the station is the result of aerodynamic and energy efficiency studies, where form truly follows function.
About the Organizational Structure of the Belgian Antarctic Research Program
BELSPO, responsible for the management of the Antarctic research program, works closely together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment for the follow up of matters within the Antarctic Treaty System. The newly-established Belgian Polar Secretariat, created in 2009 as a State's department with separated management within BELSPO, is responsible for the financial, administrative and material management of the Princess Elisabeth station. A public private partnership was established between the Belgian Science Policy and the International Polar Foundation (IPF) for the maintenance and the logistic operations of the station. The Belgian Polar Secretariat manages all matters related to the station (administrative, financial, facilities and operational matters). The International Polar foundation is the Secretariat's Antarctic Operator.
Our total annual budget for the Antarctic Program is about 4.225 million €, which consists of about 1,25 million € for science support and 3 million € for the management of the station.
Our Science Program
The project funding provided by BELSPO encompasses money for salaries, functioning, equipment, subcontracting, campaigns and the integration of international research partners in the project. It allows for the researchers to buildup expertise and international collaborations and to contribute to international discussion and policy fora. Since the closing of Roi Baudouin base, Belgian scientists have been able to perform their Antarctic field work thanks to the hospitality of other nations. By participating in a collaborative way in their scientific campaigns, important and sustainable research collaborations have been built up with other countries. Since 2008 Belgian - and scientists from other nations - can use Princess Elisabeth Station in Dronning Maud Land as a hub for their field work. Priority is given to Belgian researchers and projects in collaboration with international partners. All in concordance with the spirit of the Antarctic Treaty.
Belgian Antarctic scientists are employed by universities and research institutes. They apply for BELSPO funding through a competitive peer review process in which international experts evaluate the scientific project quality. Typically, BELSPO supports four-year network projects that fall within a strategic top-down program based on international research priorities.
Our Contact Details
Belgian Science Policy
Avenue Louise 231 Louizalaan
Tel: +32 (0)2 238 34 11