Argentine Expeditions to Antarctica
Argentine Campaigns to Antarctica
In 1939, the need of a centralized agency devoted to the defense and development of our Antarctic interests led to the creation of the National Antarctic Commission, dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, a year later.
On the basis of a recommendation of the Commission and according to a plan designed by the Naval Hydrographic Service, an Antarctic expedition was organized in 1942. It was led by Frigate Captain Alberto J. Oddera, aboard the Buque 1º de Mayo, and it arrived on Deception Island on February 6, 1942. On day 8, Captain Oddera took formal possession on behalf of the Argentine Government of the Antarctic Sector, leaving a certificate in a cylindrical container which remained on the island. This ceremony was then repeated on Melchior archipelagos and Argentine islands. Captain Oddera also carried out important hydrographic and cartographic work. He set up the first Argentine lighthouse on the island currently called 1º de Mayo (Melchior Archipelago) and performed biological and geological studies with personnel belonging to the Natural Sciences Museum “Bernardino Rivadavia.”
In 1943, another Antarctic campaign was carried out in order to complete the studies started in the previous one. This campaign reached Margarita Bay, where the equipment left in the Base del Este [Eastern Base] by the American expedition led by Byrd was recovered.
As a result of both expeditions, cartographic, hydrographic, magnetic declination, meteorological and mareographic studies were enriched, as well as aerial observations, gathering of biological, geological and glaciological samples and signaling works with lighthouses and buoys. The foundations for a future expansion of Antarctic activities had been laid, and they did not take long to start. During the 1946-1947 campaign, the “Melchior” post was created and an observational flight led by Rear Admiral Gregorio Portillo beyond the Antarctic Circle took place. A year later, the post called “Decepción” was installed. It was equipped with a seismographic and volcanologic station. A shelter was also built at Andvord Bay, on the Antarctic Peninsula.
The Navy was in charge of the Antarctic activities operations the 1940s. However, at the end of that period, the rest of the forces quickly joined the activities carried out in the White Continent and new personalities contributed their efforts in order to explore and survey the Sector, such as the then Colonel Hernán Pujato. In 1949, he formulated an ambitious plan which was implemented down to the last detail — he rented the cargo ship Santa Micaela, due to the difficulties to find a vessel to transport men and materials, and on March 21, 1951, he installed “San Martín” Base in Margarita Bay. On April 17, 1951, he created the Instituto Antártico Argentino (Argentine Antarctic Institute). In 1954, he also negotiated the purchase of the icebreaker San Martín before the National Government, and in 1955, he carried out his first Antarctic campaign, during which the base “General Belgrano” was installed. There, he spent his first wintering period. He was then part of the first Argentine Land Expedition to the South Pole in 1965, led by the then Colonel Jorge E. Leal. The expedition was called “Operación 90” and left Belgrano Base in October, 1965. The members arrived on December 10 of the same year, achieving, on the one hand, the aim of installing Argentine presence in the southernmost boundary; on the other hand, the scientific objective of carrying out surveys and gathering valuable information for different lines of investigation as well as new experiences regarding polar techniques. Gustavo Giró Tapper was the governor and second chief of “Operación 90”, and founder of “Doctor Sobral” Base, at 81º 04’ 45”, which supported the expedition. In 1952, Jorge Leal founded the “Esperanza” Base. Gustavo Gir&oacoacute; Tapper was also the chief of the winter expedition Esperanza Base-San Martín Base-Esperanza Base of 1962, which covered 2,000 kilometers along the Antarctic range. He named two peaks — the América and the Santa Micaela, in honor of the ship that had transported Hernán. Pujato in 1951.
(Antarctic Museum. Exhibit halls 5 - 8)