At present, Spain, for example, has two scientific bases in Antarctica: Juan Carlos I (1988) in Livingston Island and Gabriel de Castilla (since 1989) at Deception Island, both near the Antarctica Peninsula.
Procuring these bases was an effort of researchers who came every year to the white continent and that has remained until the arrival of the economic crisis with cuts of up to 40 % of funds allocated to R & D. This has affected the development of these campaigns reduced, in year 2013, to a minimum both in personnel and in time. Some Spanish scientists are looking for accommodation in other countries’ continental bases to develop or give continuity to their projects. This is not an easy venture given the high degree of competitiveness and the fact that, of course, each country gives priority to its own nationals.
Therefore, we can say the WindSled is an economical alternative for any given country’s scientists to continue their efforts in Antarctica and even to travel to the very heart of the continent to perform their research without a high investment.
The vehicle-convoy is easily transportable on aircraft that flies directly to the top of the continental area, landing after flying over zones with large crevasses.
The eco WindSled holds three principal axes:
1. The final development of the kite techniques as a zero-emissions method of propulsion for sleds as opposed to the Antarctic mechanized vehicle used today known as ‘the caterpillar’ and which runs on fossil fuel.
2. The coordination of a Spanish program to develop research projects in the East Antarctica ‘plateau’ and the so-called ‘inaccessibility zone’ that is the least known part of the continent due to intrinsic logistical difficulties, therefore a region of great interest for scientific exploration. This program requires the involvement of universities and scientific institutions as well as the support of R & D at the highest level.
3. Creating a unit with experience in WindSled logistics management which is capable of ensuring permanent Spanish activity in East Antarctica by performing test run expeditions in Greenland and Antarctica with the new vehicle.
The possibilities of the WindSled as a mobile base for science were tested in the Acciona Antarctica Expedition, years 2011-2012.
In a seminar held at the National Center for Biotechnology in April 2012, The WindSled Project promoters addressed the Spanish scientific community working in Antarctica. Hereby the biologist Mr. Juan Pablo Albar accounted for the developed projects during the last Antarctic expedition. In October of the same year (24-10-2012), Mr. Larramendi and Mr. Juan Manuel Viu also presented the project at a conference in the Scott Polar Institute belonging to the University of Cambridge.
Prestigious scientists have given their support to The WindSled Project:
Mr. Leopoldo Sancho García (university professor and ECOTER coordinator, an international group for the study of Antarctic flora): quoting, “The WindSled opens the scope of research where hitherto is inaccessible. I am impressed with its possibilities for specific investigations.”
Mr. Pio Cabanillas (director general at Acciona communication department): “A unique project that enables roaming Antarctica in a clean fashion. Let’s follow this project because it’s worth it. Nobody has ever done anything like this beforehand.”
Mr. Juan José Dañobeitia (CSIC responsible for the marine biology unit and former base logistician): “The WindSled helps reduce environmental impact of scientific work in Antarctica.”
Mr. Miguel Angel Ojeda (Logista bases campaign 2013-2014): “This sled is very interesting to work with on mainland. A cheap alternative for sample gathering.“
Mr. Peter Clarksson (former president of the International Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research): “We could be witnessing the birth of a new beginning in scientific exploration of Antarctica’s interior.”