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International investigation into Belgium’s Antarctic base
There will be an international investigation into activities at the Belgian Princess Elisabeth base in Antarctica, following a dispute between polar traveller Alain Hubert and the federal government. There will be no Belgian scientific mission to Antarctica this year.
The inspection has been set up at the request of the countries that are part of the international Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, including the US and China. “They have been worried about Belgian activities in Antarctica for a long time,” said a spokesperson for state secretary for science policy Elke Sleurs.
Sleurs’ cabinet welcomed the investigation. “The purity of the South Pole has to be preserved and the scientific research kept in place,” a spokesperson told public broadcaster VRT.
Hubert was the head of the base for several years until 2015, when he was moved aside because of a conflict of interests. Since then, the situation has escalated, and last year he was accused of taking equipment from the base.
It was recently claimed that he wants to organise tourist trips to Antarctica and build a new runway there. Hubert’s International Polar Foundation denied that it wants to organise tourist visits, and said a runway would reduce the costs and environmental impact of transport to the area. It added that it considers itself the only manager of the base.