Members of the public were yesterday invited to try their hands at being explorers in one of the world's most inhospitable continents when it was announced that Taiwan's first expedition to the South Pole, intended to encourage Taiwanese scientific endeavor in Antarctica, will take place in January 2004.
The 2004 Taiwan Antarctic Expedition Executive Committee -- a task force jointly established by the National Alpine Association of Taiwan and the Antarctic Society of Taiwan -- made the announcement at a press conference yesterday.
"We will welcome members of the public to apply to take part in the expedition, as long as they join one of our two associations," said Lee Hou-chin (
The Alpine Association is an association of mountain climbers, and the Antarctic Society is an association of enthusiasts for Antarctica, some of whom have led tours to the continent.
Lee said that Antarctica, with its extreme cold, dryness, wind, unpolluted ice and seasonal changes, is an excellent resource for scientific research in the fields of meteorology, oceanography, geology and glaciation.
He said that not only advanced countries, but many developing countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia, have carried out national Antarctic research expeditions and Taiwan should follow suit.
The planned mission itself, however, will not carry out research.
"The  expedition is intended to serve as a means of promoting Antarctica to Taiwanese people so that one day we can actively participate in international forums on Antarctic research."
Successful applicants will receive physical training, including two mountain-climbing expeditions, and training in communications, English and first aid. They will also receive preparatory training by psychiatrists.
"From the first explorers who landed on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1821 to today, Taiwan has never taken part in any activity regarding Antarctic research expeditions or Antarctic adventures," Lee said.
The Taiwan Fisheries' Research Institute sent four expeditions to study fish stocks in the Antarctic Ocean between 1976 and 1984.
"But those expeditions never landed on the continent," he said.
The 2004 expedition, according to the committee, would take about a month and the route would include climbing Mt. Vinson, the tallest mountain on the Antarctic continent at 4,897m, traveling to the South Pole via human-hauled sledge and visiting the US Amundsen-Scott Station.
After the expedition, Taiwan's Maritime Museum will establish a permanent exhibition showcasing documents and photos from the endeavor.
The committee plans to send six explorers but the final number will depend on the amount of funding they are able to raise. It estimates that it would need at least NT$10 million to send six explorers. It hopes to raise funds from private companies and is in talks with banks about schemes that would involve a portion of credit-card payments being used to fund the project.
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