Turkey seeking to become a polar power - Anadolu

Turkey is accelerating its scientific studies and expedition activities in the Arctic and in Antarctica in a bid to become a polar power – both to study climate change, but also to stake a claim for commercial possibilities and resource extraction, Anadolu news agency said on Thursday. 

“Turkey carries out more effective projects to undertake polar researches every year with its increasing power both in the region and around the globe,” Burcu Özsoy, head of the first Turkish Polar Research Center at Istanbul Technical University, told the state-run news agency.

In April 2016, a Turkish team of researchers traveled to Antarctica for the first time to study the impact of climate change. The team consisted of 14 medics, botanists, geologists, and oceanographers from seven universities.

Özsoy told Anadolu that the Turkish Arctic Scientific Expedition had established a temporary polar base in Antarctica in 2019, and that feasibility studies to establish a permanent base were now in their final stages. 

“If everything goes as planned, our goal is to operate the science base in the 100th year of our republic [2023],” Özsoy said.

Ersan Başar, a marine scientist and leader of Turkey’s 2020 Antarctic science expedition, told Anadolu: “Annual scientific expeditions and increasing projects on poles have strengthened Turkey's polar policy.”

But while studying and observing the effects of climate change, Turkish scientists have also been exploring commercial possibilities and natural resource extraction at the poles.

The Arctic has nearly one-third of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves and that Antarctica is rich in copper and iron, Özsoy said.

Başar said that Antarctica had a huge potential for the harvesting of krill - a small crustacean, which is a rich source of protein and omega-three fatty acids used as dietary supplements or oil capsules and for livestock and pet food.

“Krill harvesting would be an important source of income for Turkey,” Başar told Anadolu.

Başar told Anadolu that some Turkish firms had carried out significant projects related to the construction and gas industry in countries bordering the Arctic.

“Turkey should upgrade its observer status in Antarctica to become one of the decision-maker countries. Turkey will reach its goal by increasing its scientific power in Antarctica,” Başar said.