Princess Elisabeth Antarctica

Princess Elisabeth Station
Prinses Elisabethbasis
Station Princesse-Élisabeth
Test build and public presentation, September 2007, Brussels
Test build and public presentation, September 2007, Brussels
Location of Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica
Location of Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica
Princess Elisabeth Station
Location of Princess Elisabeth Station in Antarctica
Coordinates: 71°57′00″S 23°20′49″E / 71.949944°S 23.347079°E / -71.949944; 23.347079Coordinates: 71°57′00″S 23°20′49″E / 71.949944°S 23.347079°E / -71.949944; 23.347079
Country  Belgium
Location in Antarctica Utsteinen Nunatak
Queen Maud Land
Administered by International Polar Foundation
Established 15 February 2009 (2009-02-15)
1,382 m (4,534 ft)
 • Total
  • Up to 40
Type Seasonal
Period Summer
Status Operational
Princess Elisabeth Skiway
Airport type Private
Location Utsteinen Nunatak
Queen Maud Land
Coordinates 71°57′27″S 23°13′12″E / 71.957375°S 23.220126°E / -71.957375; 23.220126
Princess Elisabeth Skiway is located in Antarctica
Princess Elisabeth Skiway
Princess Elisabeth Skiway
Location of airfield in Antarctica
Direction Length Surface
ft m
4,650 1,420 Blue Ice

Princess Elisabeth Antarctica, located on Utsteinen Nunatak in Queen Maud Land ( 71°57′00″S 23°20′49″E / 71.949944°S 23.347079°E / -71.949944; 23.347079), is a Belgian scientific polar research station, which went into service on 15 February 2009.


The station, designed, built and operated by the International Polar Foundation, is the first polar base that combines eco-friendly construction materials, clean and efficient energy use, optimization of the station's energy consumption and clever waste-management techniques.

Testing phase in Brussels and building construction in Antarctica was coordinated by Belgian main contractor BESIX.[1]

The station is built against a ridge (The Utsteinen ridge) that is exposed to gales of up to 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph). The station can withstand such strong winds through its aerodynamic shape and its foundation anchoring of several metres deep into the permafrost.[citation needed] Philippe Samyn, a Belgian architect, was involved in designing the shell and underlying structure. The upper deck of the building is the actual station and looks over the ridge edge. The lower deck contains a garage for snowcat vehicles and other utilities.

The Princess Elisabeth base is the only zero-emission base on the Antarctic, and runs on solar and wind energy through the use of a micro smart grid, which has lead-acid batteries as well as backup generators. The station is connected to nine wind turbines that stretch out along the Utsteinen ridge.[2] It houses up to 16 scientists at a time.

The station is named after Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant, the eldest daughter of King Philippe of Belgium.

During the Covid pandemic that started in 2020, 11 of 30[3] of the base's personnel contracted the disease in December 2021 despite having been vaccinated. The first case was a person who had arrived on 7 December, and was found to have covid on 14 December. The cases were mild, and as of 1 January 2022 none were expected to be evacuated on a flight scheduled for 12 January 2022.[4]

Ownership dispute

There was a protracted dispute between the government of Belgium and the explorer Alain Hubert as to which party controls the base.[5] The Belgian Government has alleged financial mismanagement by the base's private operators, the International Polar Foundation.[5] Disputes over ownership and control of the base have led to a reduction in scientific research being undertaken at the base.[5] As per L'Echo, the head of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office, René Delcourt, has stated that no Belgian scientists would be sent to the station in 2017.[6]

The dispute was resolved on 9 June 2017 as a judgement ruled by the Belgian Council of State. Publicly announced on 30 June 2017 as the "Pax Antarctica", the settlement between the International Polar Foundation and the Belgian government includes the Belgian government fully owning the base, the International Polar Foundation receiving contracts to operate the base for the next six years, and a cessation of all legal proceedings.[7] Research work resumed in November 2017, with 24 scientists from twelve countries expected at the base.[8]

See also


  1. ^ "Project: Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Polar Station". Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  2. ^ Winter, Kate (11 November 2019). "Antarctica's first zero-emission research station shows that sustainable living is possible anywhere".
  3. ^ Andreas Frei: Wie Corona in die Antarktis kam – und was dabei optimistisch stimmt. In: Tages-Anzeiger, 5. Januar 2022, abgerufen am 6. Januar 2022.
  4. ^ "Coronavirus pandemic: Antarctic outpost hit by Covid-19 outbreak". BBC News. 1 January 2022.
  5. ^ a b c Enserink, Martin (January 17, 2017). "Science suffers in cold war over polar base". Science. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017.
  6. ^ Vincent, Christopher (December 9, 2016). "Princess Elisabeth polar station – Canadian scientist expected in January, uncertainty about Belgians". The Brussels Times. Retrieved January 20, 2017. The announcement coincided with a report in l’Echo daily in Belgium that there “will be no [Belgian] State mission to Antarctica this year” [...] The daily reported that the head of Belgium’s Federal Science Policy Office, René Delcourt, had informed the International Polar Foundation in a letter dated the 1st of December that Belgium would not send any scientists to the polar station this year.
  7. ^ "PAX ANTARCTICA". International Polar Foundation. June 30, 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  8. ^ Apelblat, M. (26 Nov 2017). "Belgian polar station in Antarctica starts to work again". Brussels Times. Retrieved 24 February 2018.

External links