The Department of Environmental Affairs has launched the first ever Antarctic Week in Cape Town.

It is aimed at educating and informing the public about the work being done by local scientists in the Southern Oceans.

The event includes a symposium and school tours at the Port of Cape Town ahead of the departure of the research vessel, the Agulhas 2, on its annual voyage to Antarctica.

Learners from local high schools are among the first to see exhibits and interact with experts about the work done on one of the most remote places on earth.

Some of them had this to say:

“It’s about water, it’s like everything like what is going on what’s happening right there like computer science, science space, everything is here, it’s interesting.”

“I was so inspired today because we came and learnt about sea life, which we are not really exposed to but now today we have learned about it and it was quite a good experience for me learning about these things,” adds another learner.

Following New Zealand’s example, the week was established to create a better understanding about South Africa’s six- decade long scientific work on the remote continent.

Plans are underway to build a dedicated interactive, educational and information Antarctic Centre in Cape Town within the next few years. The centre will also play a greater role in international co-operation.

“We want to have a secretariat based at the centre which will help with communication with industries that are important to Antarctica voyage and so on. So we want to be of greater assistance than before to the 10 countries that leave from Antarctica to Cape Town. We then want the scientists from those countries that are going to Antarctica to contribute to the training of our own young people and scientists,” says Tactical Specialist Monde Mayekiso.

South Africa’s dedicated Antarctic Research Vessel, the Agulhas 2, will depart for Antarctica on Friday.

She will not only take out a replacement team to the base but important scientific research including ocean and climate studies, will also be done along the way.