Brazil's President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva confessed that he felt overwhelmed during his brief Sunday visit to the country's base in Antarctica, a dream he had since he was a litlte child. Lula promised more resources for scientific research.
"This is marvelous, unimaginable, very emotive," said Lula when he was shown around the Comandante Ferraz base which is Brazil's scientific platform in King George island.
According to the Brazilian news agency Globo, Lula said it was "most important that more resources should be made available so as to have more possibilities of advancing research" such as those currently undertaken by Brazilian scientific and military staff.
"We definitively need a larger lab than what we have now so our scientists can work more and in better conditions", and the Brazilian government "has the resources, the money and the political will to do so", he emphasized to the Brazilian media.
Lula's trip to Antarctica was delayed 24 hours because of the bad weather, which forced him to remain in a hotel in Punta Arenas, extreme south of Chile, waiting for climate conditions to improve as happened early Sunday.
"It was worth it," said Lula who admitted he was already "thinking about returning to Brazil and canceling the trip because you can't have a president two days looking out of the window waiting."
The Brazilian president and a delegation of 20 people including the First Lady Marisa Letícia, his eldest son, three ministers were scheduled to fly on Saturday but finally managed to take off on Sunday.
The first stop was in the Chilean base Presidente Frei airstrip and from there on to the Brazilian navy oceanographic vessel Ary Rongel by helicopter. Following lunch on board – and enduring minus 3 degrees Celsius (26.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and minus 15 (5 degrees Fahrenheit) wind factor – they went ashore for a tour of the Comandante Ferraz base and a display of the research undertaken by scientists and military personnel.
The Brazilians currently are involved in 19 research programs, all related to the environment and climate change. One of them in particular refers to the ozone layer and the absorption of that gas by oceans' surface, another to minute microscopic mollusks which are part of the Antarctic food chain all the way to the large marine mammals.
Sunday evening the Brazilian delegation left for Punta Arenas and from there direct to Brazilian capital Brasília.
According to Brazilian officials, the trip was in the framework of the "International Polar Year 2007-2008" promoted by the International Meteorological Organization with the purpose of researching world climate and the evolution of polar masses.
It was also planned to coincide with the anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol which became effective February 16, 1995.
The Planalto (Executive) palace defined the presidential trip as a "political gesture" in support of global conservation and the work displayed by Brazilian scientists and military personnel in the permanent base which was established 25 years ago.
Lula da Silva is the second Brazilian president to visit the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic base, the first was Fernando Collor de Mello in 1991.