South African National Antarctic Program(SANAP)

Photo: South African National Antarctic Program

About South Africa’s National Antarctic Program

COMNAP Representative (MNAP): Lisolomzi Fikizolo, Chief Director
(DMNAP): Nishendra Devanunthan, SANAP Director

South Africa has long been involved and has built an impressive infrastructure around the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP). This programme includes the infrastructure on Antarctica, SANAE IV as well as bases in the South Atlantic Ocean on Marion and Gough Islands (collectively, the Islands). South Africa is a founder member of the Antarctic Treaty and remains a leading nation and the only African representative in the administration of the treaty.

The research expeditions themselves are undertaken by the South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Affairs, with the first trip in 1959 to build a permanent base. During the first season, the South Africans utilized an abandoned Norwegian station in Queen Maud Land then in 1961, the new station SANAE was completed. Since then, several stations have been built to replace older stations that had to be abandoned due to snow drift. The latest station SANAE IV, finished in 1997 on Vesleskarvet nunatak, maintains a year round population with a maximum of 80 people there in the summer and 10 in the winter.

The new South African Icebreaker, SA Agulhas II, has replaced the SA Agulhas. This fully equipped ship will be used for resupplying stations and conducting science. This ship has features like a moon-pool and a drop keel and facilities for coring of ocean seabeds, deep water probes, underwater observatory and a meteorology lab amongst other facilities.

About the Organizational Structure of SANAP

Much important scientific research in which South Africa has a comparative advantage takes place under the auspices of SANAP. This research is in line with recent strategy documents and thinking on the direction that the sciences and technology should play in our young democracy. In this regard, SANAP has been restructured and all matters dealing with research are now the responsibility of the Department of Science and Technology (DS&T) and funding for this is administered from within that department by the National Research Foundation (NRF). The administration of SANAP and its technical maintenance however remains the responsibility of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

Annual direct research funding is about R18 million. Logistic support (for Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research including ship operational costs) is about R130 million.

Our Science Program

A variety of topics are covered by SANAP research, ranging from upper air research with cosmic rays to geological earth sciences. Five themes for the research are: geospace, climate variability, biodiversity, sustainability, and the social, historical and political nature of human presence in Antarctica.

SANAE IV, the South African base in Antarctica is a well-resourced facility for the observation of various natural phenomena occurring in the cosmos, in the atmosphere or the electromagnetic field surrounding the earth, as well as in the crust of the earth itself.

Auroras, solar winds and the ozone layer are some of the subjects of this research – with direct relevance to the navigation and communication systems upon which we have become so dependent.

Collaboration with regard to research is extensive both nationally (tertiary institutions, research councils, etc.) and internationally (e.g. Alfred Wegner Institute, Germany, Darfmouth College, USA, etc. Excellent logistic collaboration between SANAP and those countries using Cape Town as a Gateway to the Antarctic exist, particularly Germany and the Nordic countries.

Our Contact Details


SANAP (Southern Ocean and Antarctic Support):
Phone: +27 (0)21 819 2608

Other Links:

South African Department of Environmental Affairs:
South African Department of Science and Technology: