The crucial logistical difficulty is the uncertainty surrounding air paths.
A Number Of those who go to Antarctica each austral summertime season do so by travelling on a plane to one of the primary entrances – in South Africa, Australia/New Zealand and Chile – where they then make the hop throughout the Southern Ocean, either on a connecting flight or on a ship.
However with air passages so significantly disrupted at the minute, the entrances aren’t functioning as they should.
UK scientists and professionals, and their supplies, will therefore travel direct from Britain to Antarctica on the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross.
It’s possible some sort of air connection might become established via the Falklands with a refuelling stop on Ascension Island – but this is not Plan A.
With the constraints these arrangements enforce, BAS has no option but to suspend the large majority of its deep-field jobs which send out researchers into the interior of the continent to conduct their studies.
The emphasis will rather be on preserving essential climate observations made at the primary stations of Rothera and Halley.
Over the last few years, the latter has been closed for the winter, with all its science instruments run immediately.
Offered today scenarios, Halley will stay in shutdown through the summer too – although efforts will be made to visit the base to make sure the power generation system that supports the automatic set-up can continue to run all the way through to the summer season of 2021/2022
” We have sufficient fuel at Halley to get us through the next winter season. The problem is that fuel is not in the tanks that feed the automation system; it remains in the bigger station tanks and we have to move it,” stated Prof David Vaughan, BAS director of science.
This will just happen if BAS can get its fleet of Twin Otter aircraft from Canada, where they have actually just been serviced, to Antarctica. However, once again, flying these aircrafts leg-by-leg through the Americas may prove difficult given the infection rates now being reported in some countries.
And if the Twin Otters do not turn up, no-one will be able to get across to Halley from Rothera to repair the fuel issue.
The coronavirus crisis grasped the world in the middle of the 2019/2020 Antarctic summertime season.
Getting all momentary workers off the continent, and bringing them house, likewise showed to be a logistical headache, with some scientists and specialists sustaining long waits and quarantine at Rothera, and on the Falklands, before getting a flight or ship berth home.
Even those who ‘d invested weeks collecting measurements in what are some of the remotest locations in the world needed to take their place in line.
This included the expedition teams returning from far-away Thwaites Glacier.
The enormous ice stream is the subject of a five-year, concerted research push to understand why it is melting so fast and the impact this will have on global water level.
It’s the single greatest science investigation on the continent right now, however the studies are going to need to take a gap year.
Prof Vaughan informed BBC News: “We have actually concurred with the National Science Structure, our United States partner, that Thwaites is postponed by one year. We’ll do everything we can to return in and strike the ground running in the subsequent season of 21/22 No job is being cancelled; no activities are being cancelled. It’s all just being delayed.”