Trio tell of Arctic experience

KUALA LUMPUR: It was a long journey from home but when they reached their Arctic station in Norway, the three Malaysian scientists were stunned by the breathtaking scenery.  

Team leader Associate Prof Dr Irene Tan Kit Peng, who carried out a research on bacteria during their 10-day stint there from July 17, told this to reporters after delivering a talk at the Universiti Malaya on their expedition to Ny-Alesund.  

She said the usual mode of transport was a 16-seater plane but due to some problems that day they had to take the helicopter. 

The other two team members were Prof Phang Siew Moi, who did a research on algae and Assoc Prof Dr Siti Aisah, who researched on fungi. 

THREE BRAVE WOMEN: (from left) Prof Dr Phang, Assoc Prof Dr Tan andAssoc Prof Dr Siti Aisah braving the cold to do research on polar microorganismsat the Arctic station in Ny-Alesund in Norway.

The scientists from Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences were the first Malaysians to be at Ny-Alesund to carry out research at an arctic station. 

Prof Tan said they were invited by the Korea Polar Research Institute (Kopri) to carry out their research at the Dasan station in Ny-Alesund. 

She said the trip followed a memorandum of understanding signed between the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (which manages the Malaysian Antarctic Research Programme) and Kopri in July. 

She signed on behalf of the Malaysian partner while Dr Lee Hong-Kum signed for Kopri for the research on Biological and Functional Diversity of Polar Microorganisms. 

“Malaysia has no research station in Ny-Alesund, so we had to be invited by a country which has one,” she said. 

Besides host country Norway and South Korea, the countries that have research stations there, with laboratories, storage facilities and living quarters, include Germany, France and China. 

She said although it was summer when the team visited the place, the temperatures hovered between 2°C and 7°C. 

“The day we arrived was overcast but after that we had sunny weather. 

“The other scientists joked that we brought the sun with us,” she smiled. 

Prof Phang said she and Prof Tan went out to sea to collect water for phytoplankton analysis, 

They had to wear the “dry suit”, which was compulsory for anyone heading out in a boat. 

“It took us ages to put on the suits as we had to wear it from the toes up,” she said.