Everything about Antarctica is extreme. South Pole winter
temperatures average around minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit,
and coastal winds can reach 200 miles an hour, powering
violent blizzards that last a week at a time. Still
scientists come, because the last frontier offers data
they cant get anywhere else.
Geologists mine Antarcticas ice, created from
layers of snow over millennia, for ancient clues to
Earths evolution. Meteorologists correlate global
weather patterns with the annual freezing of Antarcticas
oceans. Monitoring the effects of global warming on
the six-million-square-mile yearly ice sheet, they look
for signs of long-term climate change.
Astronomers and particle physicists search the six-month
darkness of Antarcticas winter skies for celestial
missives from deep space. Biologists explore how living
things adapt to conditions thought wildly inhospitable
to life. Discoveries of algae, bacteria, and fungi in
Antarcticas Dry Valleyscold, dark, barren
expanseschallenged the conventional wisdom that
life could not survive such extreme environments. These
findings have bolstered searches for life on Mars.
From oceanographers to microbiologists, the worlds
largest natural laboratory offers something for just
about any researcherincluding the physiologists
and psychiatrists examining how this extreme place affects
the men and women who study it.
ideas being studied in Antarctica:
Fresh, Not Frozen
- The way that Antarctic fish
have adapted to cold waters tells us how life has evolved
Earth Moving Under Your Feet
- At Antarctica's Mt.
Erebus Observatory, scientists study how the Earth has
shifted, and fossil evidence shows that the continent
was once alive with plants and animals in a temperate
ideas our crew has been exploring:
- Paul hops a helicopter with geologists
investigating rifts in the Earth's crust.
- Measuring energy, looking for
the origin of cosmic rays.
- Gauging the changing size of the Antarctic