Daily Management Review

How Japan Joined Antarctica


It was believed that people cannot get closer to some places in Antarctica because of the fact that the water, in which they are located, are covered with a thick layer of ice. Nevertheless, a Japanese icebreaker "Soy" managed to do it. January 29, 1957, Japanese Station "Showa" appeared in the Antarctic. 10 years after the defeat in the war, the great achievement inspired people, who still had scars from the war, and returned Japan in the international community.

- Ministry of Finance Budget Inspector said that it is impossible to give the taxpayers' money for such projects, but the enthusiasm and commitment of Professor Matsumura led him to action.

This is one of the phrases contained in the "25-year history of Antarctic exploration" by Seiji Kaya, which is in the middle of the 50s, when there was an international research project in Antarctica, was the head of the Scientific Council of Japan. He wrote this work for the Ministry of Culture of Japan. Professor Matsumura is Kenzo Matsumura, who at the time was the Minister of Culture. He is a fan of Antarctic. In 1910, he even accompanied Lieutenant Nobu Sirase, who went to the Antarctic expedition aboard.

Vice-President of the Antarctic Society of Japan, whose members are researchers who visited the expedition to the South Pole, Okidzuku Watanabe says: "After the war, 10 years have passed, but Japan was still a poor country. If we had not such a political decision, the researches in Antarctica now would not be conducted". Such studies require more than 100 million yen. Given the fact that at current Japanese budget, which was trying to recover from the devastation, was one trillion yen, it was a large sum. "Professor Matsumura said to Mr. Kay that it is necessary to raise the national spirit through research in Antarctica in difficult times," - says Mr. Watanabe.

With this support, in September 1955, a team, led by University of Tokyo Professor Takeshi Nagata, at an international conference in Brussels expressed its intention to take part in an expedition to the South Pole. 4 November of the same year at a meeting in Parliament, the Japanese authorities have taken an official decision. In 1956, when "Soy" left Tokyo's Harumi port, the Government stressed in the Economic Report that the post-war period came to an end.

International Antarctic research project was launched in the framework of the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). The South Pole had a variety of mysterious phenomena like the northern lights. The area of Antarctica is 37 times higher than in Japan. People do not live there because of the harsh weather conditions. In this regard, there were many unexplored places. The international community was interested to learn something new.

The ambitious project has caused great interest in Japan. One might say that the event has become an international debut for Japan, whose sovereignty was restored in 1952 with the entry into force of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. not only adults donated in the project, but also children, who saved pocket money and made five or ten yen. There were collected 21,463 donations. As organizations also donated money, the project was attended by several million people. The total amount exceeded 30 million yen. To date, this amount is equivalent to 500 million yen.

The former head of the National Institute of polar research Yoshiyuki Fujii, which participated in expeditions to the South Pole four times, also gave 100 yen to the project when he was in third grade.
- I was struck by the fact that Japan will travel to unexplored places. Japan has never had such a hype, either before or after this- he said.

A list of names of people who have made donations had been created. This list was cast on a copper plate by well-known Japanese caster Masahiko Katori. For a while, this plate was on the Antarctic Station "Showa", but over the years, it has grown into the ice, so it has to be returned to Japan 30 years ago.
- Recently I was looking through this list and was very surprised when I saw there the name of the current head of the National Institute of polar research Kazuyuki Shiraishi. The first donation made actress Yumedzi Tsukioka, - says Mr. Fujii.

In 1955, Japan announced its participation in the Arctic expedition during the international conference. Participants agreed that in Antarctica, they must create a station that will provide information about the South Pole as a whole. There already were various foreign stations in Antarctica, but Japan had proposed to establish a base in the area, which was 1,600 kilometers away from the other stations. After that, the discussion continued, resulting in the decision to build the station "Showa" on the island of East Ongul coordinating 39 degrees east longitude and 69 degrees south latitude.

However, ice is thick in this particular region, and therefore extremely difficult to access. In 2012, the latest research vessel "Siras" could not even come close to the shore. Since that time, Japan was the country that lost the war, some thought that it had the unfortunate fate. However, according to Fuji, as a result, this place was favorable for study and research.

First, the base is located in a place where the Northern Lights may often be observed. In addition, a large amount of solar origin of meteorites was found near the Yamato Mountains, which are located 300 kilometers to the southwest of the base. The places, where ice that contain air masses over the last million years can be found, can be reached by snowmobile from the base of "Showa". Later, there were built arctic stations ‘Dome Fuji’, ‘Mizuho’ and ‘Asuka’. The fifth station is planned to build near the "Dome Fuji."

50 years passed after the International Geophysical Year. Scientists believe that three important discoveries had been made on the South Pole: the ozone hole, Lake Vostok, discovered under the ice at a depth of four thousand meters and a large number of meteorites. Japan has made a huge contribution to the discovery of meteorites and the ozone hole. US learn from Japan how to properly search for meteorites. Shigeru Tyubachi discovered reduction of the ozone layer. Lake Vostok, which is under Russian station, 22 times excesses the size of Lake Biwa. There was also found an ecosystem that has been isolated from the outside world for at least a million years.

There were tragic events too. In 1960, Shin Fukushima, who had been engaged in research of the Northern Lights, went missing - he came out in a blizzard to feed the dogs. He went to help Yoshio Yoshida, which took care about the dogs, but get lost in conditions of zero visibility.
"The security research and tests take time. Currently, there is a tendency to obtain results instantly. As a result, insufficient attention is paid to safety. I would like to have my bitter experience served as a lesson for the present research,- says Yoshida.

According to the National Institute of polar research, currently, the South Pole has stations of about 20 countries. We can say that Antarctic researches, which went beyond national interests related to territories and natural resources, are one of the perfect examples of international cooperation.

The basis for this was the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 by 12 countries (Japan, USA, UK, France, Belgium, Norway, the Soviet Union, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina), who had the station at the South Pole. Under this contract, the parties agreed to free scientific research and international cooperation, as well as a ban on military training and territorial claims. In 1961, it came into the force -a year before the Cuban missile crisis, which resulted in the US-Soviet Cold War almost led to a nuclear disaster.

Mr. Yoshida, who knows the details of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, characterizes the international situation at the time: "The United States and the Soviet Union waged a cold war in the northern hemisphere. Some fear that such a situation exists in the southern hemisphere. We can say that Antarctic research laid the foundation for peace research at sea and in space. "

Currently, the station "Showa" annually hosts foreign scientists. Their Japanese counterparts also live on foreign stations. According to Fujii, eating from the same plate forms a strong international team. He believes that the South Pole promotes cooperation and competition.

source: mainichi.jp