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National Antarctic Programmes

Christchurch, as New Zealand’s Antarctic gateway city, hosts a number of international partners in addition to New Zealand’s own Antarctic government agency, Antarctica New Zealand.

Antarctica New Zealand 
Antarctica New Zealand manages the New Zealand Government’s interests in Antarctica and the Ross Sea. As well as providing logistics support to New Zealand’s Antarctic scientific programme, it also runs Scott Base, New Zealand’s only permanent base in Antarctica.  

Republic of Korea (Korea Polar Research Institute - KOPRI)
The Korean Antarctic programme has maintained a presence in the city since it opened its Korea-New Zealand Antarctic Co-operation Office in 2014. The Korean Antarctic programme services the Jang Bogo Station, in Terra Nova Bay. Approximately 200 Korean scientists and support personnel pass through Christchurch each summer. KOPRI’s icebreaker and research vessel, Araon, usually visits Lyttelton on its way to and from the Antarctic three times over the summer months.

Italy (Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide - PNRA)
Since establishing the Mario Zucchelli Research Station in Terra Nova Bay in 1986, the Italian Antarctic programme has used Christchurch as their base to service the station. The base supports around 70 people and operates during the summer months, hosting a variety of scientific projects. Approximately 230 personnel pass through Christchurch each summer.

The ice-strengthened support vessel Italica was a regular visitor to Lyttelton over the years but has now been decommissioned. The Italian programme are looking at options to replace this vessel.

The Italian programme is currently completing a permanent runway at its Mario Zucchelli base. This is expected to change the nature of their operations through Christchurch, allowing flights throughout all the summer months; previously air movements were restricted to the beginning of the season.

United States (United States Antarctic Program - USAP)
The United States has had a long history dating back to the 1950’s of using Christchurch as its jumping off point to the Ross Sea area and beyond. The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent US government agency, manages the US Antarctic Program (USAP). NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP) coordinates all US scientific research on the continent and aboard ships in the Southern Ocean as well as related logistics support. Through an Antarctic Support Contract, PAE (New Zealand) operates the USAP in Christchurch. The New York Air National Guard operates LC-130 (ski-equipped) airplanes in the Antarctic Programme. The C17 Globemaster, which flies regularly during the summer season from Christchurch International Airport to Antarctica, is operated by the US Air Force while the US Coast Guard operates icebreakers, including the USCGC Polar Star, in Antarctica to escort supply ships and to support science.

McMurdo Station, the logistics hub of the US Antarctic Program in the Ross Sea, accommodates up to 1200 people. It is just 3km from New Zealand's Scott Base. The USAP also operates the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Palmer Station.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
NASA operates two major programmes through Christchurch. The largest programme, SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), operates out of Christchurch from June to August conducting a range of missions to observe celestial objects. The second and smaller programme, ATom (Atmospheric Tomography Mission), visits Christchurch for a week each February and October as part of a global data-collection mission. Using a modified DC-8 passenger aircraft, ATom studies the impact of human-produced air pollution on greenhouse gases and on chemically reactive gases in the atmosphere.  

Germany (Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe - BGR) 
With the reopening of the Gondwana Research Station in Terra Nova Bay, the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), is increasing its operational relationship with Christchurch. There are currently between 10-20 scientists working in their base over the summer months, mainly in collaboration with the Italian Antarctic programme. However, the expectations are that the BGR programme will increase over the next few years with increases in personnel and collaborative partnerships.