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Antarctic Weather Gear

 



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Overview
Exploration of new or rarely-explored frontiers often requires remarkable courage, determination, and endurance. These characteristics, as well as others, were needed by the early explorers of the coldest and most desolate continent on earth -- Antarctica. Robert F. Scott of Great Britain, the second explorer to reach the South Pole, described a bleak and uninhabitable region in his journal. He wrote, "... One knows there is neither tree nor shrub, nor any living thing, nor even inanimate rocks -- nothing but this terrible limitless expanse of snow." Scott was in a race with Roald Amundsen of Norway to become the first person to reach the South Pole. Amundsen reached the Pole in December 1911. Scott arrived there one month later to find a black flag tied to a part of a sledge -- proof that Amundsen had reached the South Pole first. Scott and his companions died on the vast continent trying to return to their home base. Scientists now know, after much further exploration, that Antarctica is much more than the bleakness described by Scott. Its topography includes mountains and mineral deposits. There are algae, moss, lichens, a few kinds of grasses, and even some microscopic animals and insect-like creatures. The seas surrounding Antarctica support thriving plant and animal life. Almost 14 times the number of plankton grow in Antarctic waters as compared to tropical waters. Animals inhabit the coastal areas in great numbers, including sea birds, fishes, penguins, seals, whales, and krill. Scientists who arrive on the Antarctic continent aboard C-14s are the explorers of today. Their areas of research are varied: the ozone "hole" in the atmosphere over the continent; the glacier dynamics on it; the minerals under it; or the life forms around it. Regardless of their areas of expertise, they all must prepare for the challenges of Antarctica, not the least of which is getting there -- nine hours from New Zealand in planes without enough fuel to make a return trip, or crossing Drake Passage from Chile, some of the most dangerous waters in the world. And, once there, they must endure a "roughing-it" lifestyle: living in darkness during the months of May through August, and in almost continuous light from November through February; dressing for subzero temperatures; protecting equipment and instruments from cold weather; and living in close quarters.

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