With the U.S. government shutdown, New Zealand scientists will take over research activities in Antarctica as their American counterparts have withdrawn their ongoing operations at McMurdo base.
The U.S. operations in the base have been temporarily suspended to 'caretaker' status with only few skeletal staff staying as President Barack Obama and the Republicans still in a deadlock on the 10th day of the U.S. government shutdown.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the partial shutdown in the base will delay several research projects until next year. All pending research work and science programs in Antarctica, especially those with U.S. collaboration, will remain suspended until the resolution of the American government shutdown.
McCully added it is "highly questionable" if the American scientists can resume work before the end of the year. He also noted that projects with U.S. involvement will remain at standstill.
New Zealand scientists are still mulling over the news in the neighboring Scott base. They have expressed concern over the pending projects and other unfinished work. The minister is also concerned about the U.S. scientists' withdrawal since several programs have started years before. Researchers in Antarctica are currently in the process of gathering data for comparison in a year-to-year basis.
McCully said New Zealand has already offered its scientists to take over the research operations in Antarctica until such time that the U.S. government lifts the shutdown. He said the relationship among Antarctica, New Zealand and the U.S. has never faltered.
The minister believed it is only proper for New Zealand to make such an offer to preserve its work. The McMurdo base will keep its central services running, including logistics and other services crucial in protecting the U.S. assets.
American flights to Antarctica will continue since the U.S. has three bases in the continent. McCully remained uncertain if the number of flights will be reduced.
When asked if the U.S. government shutdown will have a negative impact on New Zealand research, he said he was not worried since Kiwi research is expanding. He noted New Zealand's climate change research is leading the world.
Key research projects that will be stalled due to the U.S. government shutdown include the ice loss investigation in Antarctica.
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