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SOUTH AFRICA January 18 2013

 

The R1.3 billion Agulhas II replaces the older and smaller Agulhas as South Africa’s supply vessel for its scientific and weather stations in Antarctica (SANAE IV located on a rocky outcrop several miles inland in the Queen Maud region); on Marion Island (part of the Prince Edward Islands group in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean, part of South Africa); and Gough Island (a dependency of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean). 

 

Unlike the older vessel, which had limited research capabilities, the new Agulhas II, which was commissioned on 4 May 2012, has state-of-the-art oceanographic and atmospheric research and monitoring equipment. To fulfill its re-supply mission, the ship can carry up to 100 passengers, 140,000 cubic feet of cargo, and 500 cubic meters of polar diesel fuel. With an ice-strengthened hull and two controllable-pitch propellers, it is capable of a sustained speed of five knots in one meter of first-year ice

 

The Agulhas II has eight permanent scientific laboratories and can carry six containerized laboratories. Deep-water probes can be deployed through a large door in the side of the vessel or from a moon pool measuring almost eight feet by eight feet. It is equipped with a movable sonar transducer (called a drop keel) that can be lower almost ten feet below the hull to obtain more accurate measurements of things such as plankton density and ocean currents. The drop keel can also be raised into the hull to allow for maintenance and repair. The ship can also carry two medium helicopters. The 440-foot long Agulhas II was built by STX Finland to the latest IMO standards.

 

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and Stellenbosch University have embarked on a research programme using the SA Agulhas II to further the understanding of the hull design of icebreaking ships and the reaction in ice conditions.

Ports.co.za adds the Department of Environmental Affairs and Stellenbosch University have joined partners with STX Finland, Aker Arctic Technology and the Universities of Oulu and Aalto Finland to take part in the study. According to Dr. Annie Bekker, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, Stellenbosch University, “The research aim is to create a scientific basis for the design of ice-going ships, in particular the relationship between operational conditions and ice load on the hull and human comfort in terms of vibration and sound.”

 

STX Finland is one of the more experienced shipbuilding companies in the world and specialises in building the world’s largest cruise vessels, ferries, offshore service vessels, naval craft, Arctic ships and other specialist research vessels. STX has built 60% of the world’s icebreaking fleet with the most powerful being the Russian icebreakers TAYMYR and VAYGACH built in 1985. They also built the Finnish Fennica and Nordica multifunctional icebreakers in 1993.

 

Maritime Professional January 2013 South Africa Agulhas II



 

 

November 2nd 2012 U.K. scientists are relieved by the decision, announced today, to stop a proposed merger between the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC). But their relief is tempered by concerns about whether funding cuts will erode the survey's celebrated reputation in polar research. 

 

"BAS is a world-class institution. If it's not broke, don't fix it—especially if it's just for the sake of some bureaucratic organization chart that conceals the true motive of cutting budgets," says Thomas Crowley, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom. 

In June, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which oversees both centers, had proposed the merger, saying it would lower the cost of maintaining the ice-strengthened BAS fleet and the blue-water-going NOC fleet as well as "integrat[ing] these areas of science more closely." But researchers rose up in opposition, arguing that the merger was ill-conceived, that it might hamper BAS's mission, and that it wasn't clear how it would save money. On Wednesday the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee urged NERC to cancel the merger on the grounds that NERC hadn't made its case. "We are sympathetic to NERC's requirements to save money and sympathetic to several of the suggestions they have to do this but they did not make the case that merging BAS and NOC was the best way to achieve those," said Member of Parliament Andrew Miller, the chair of the committee. 

Yesterday, NERC debated the merger behind closed doors and today government officials revealed its decision. "NERC Council agreed that it will not proceed with the proposal for merger," science minister David Willetts said in a statement. "The British Antarctic Survey and National Oceanography Centre will remain as NERC's centres." 

 

The relief among many scientists was palpable."The Government and the NERC should be congratulated for listening to the scientific community and removing the threat to the British Antarctic Survey," said Bob Ward, the policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, today in a statement. "The UK's world-class science base is being hit hard by the cuts to funding resulting from the Comprehensive Spending Review, and the Survey was set to become one of the most high-profile casualties." 

But the ongoing uncertainty has cast a pall over what was supposed to be a banner year for BAS. Last month, BAS scientists headed to Antarctica to gear up for a historic penetration through more than 3 kilometers of ice into Antarctica's subglacial Lake Ellsworth. And BAS's new, state-of-the-art Halley atmospheric research station in the Weddell Sea—built in the same location where BAS scientists discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica in 1985—is now up and running. But the excitement was dampened by the departure earlier this year of the director and two other senior staff members, likely due to conflict with NERC over the proposed merger. 

NERC did not return requests for additional comment, pointing only to today's statement that notes it considered the opinions of Parliament, the polar affairs community, and NERC staff in making the decision. The statement also noted that NERC is committed to funding BAS at £42 million a year through 2015. 

But having dodged a bullet, the polar research community is still very concerned about what's going to happen to BAS, says John Dudeney, a former deputy director of BAS who retired from the organization in 2006. Dudeney says the first task facing the survey is to recruit new leadership. Ed Hill, the interim director of BAS, is also the head of NOC and was charged by NERC with overseeing the consultation about the proposed merger. In its report, the Science and Technology Committee noted that Hill's appointment to run the consultation "could create an impression that the consultation process lacks openness or objectivity." 

The question of merging the fleets also looms large. Combining BAS's two ice-strengthened ships with NOC's two blue-water ships "was a very silly idea, as far as I'm concerned," Dudeney says, because the needs of the two fleets are starkly different and previous independent reviews suggest that merging wouldn't increase flexibility or produce the desired "synergy." 

A third challenge concerns the survey's budget. One part of NERC's statement today may be particularly troubling: The statement calls for "a discrete funding line for Antarctic infrastructure and logistics from within the ring-fenced science budget to ensure a visible UK commitment to maintaining Antarctic science and presence." Dudeney fears that statement could signify changes in the current funding structure, by which BAS provides support for both logistics and science. 

The uncertainty has taken a toll on BAS scientists and staff members. "I've never seen morale so bad in BAS," Dudeney says. "It's really sad, because this is a year in particular where the U.K. could be really celebrating success in Antarctica." 

 

Antarctica satelite composite image (map)

 

Satellite composite image of Antarctica

 

 

Antarctica is the southernmost continent and includes the South Pole. Geographic sources disagree as to whether it is surrounded by the Southern Ocean or the South Pacific Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, and Indian Ocean. It is divided by the Transantarctic Mountains. On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. At 14.425 million km², Antarctica is the third-smallest continent after Europe and Australia; 98% of it is covered in ice. Because there is little precipitation, except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world. There are no permanent human residents and Antarctica has never had an indigenous population. Only cold-adapted plants and animals survive there, including penguins, fur seals, mosses, lichens, and many types of algae. The name "Antarctica" comes from the Greek ανταρκτικός (antarktikos), meaning "opposite the Arctic."

 

Although myths and speculation about a Terra Australis ("Southern Land") date back to antiquity, the first confirmed sighting of the continent is commonly accepted to have occurred in 1820 by the Russian expedition of Mikhail Lazarev and Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen. However, the continent remained largely neglected for the rest of the 19th century because of its hostile environment, lack of resources, and isolated location.

 

The Antarctic Treaty was signed in 1959 by 12 countries. The treaty prohibits military activities and mineral mining, supports scientific research, and protects the continent's ecozone. Ongoing experiments are conducted by more than 4,000 scientists of many nationalities and with different research interests.

 

 

Ernest Shackleton's south pole expedition of 1907-9, Antarctica

 

Nimrod Expedition South Pole Party (left to right): Wild, Shackleton, Marshall and Adams

 

 

History

 

Belief in the existence of a Terra Australis — a vast continent located in the far south of the globe to "balance" the northern lands of Europe, Asia and north Africa — had existed since Ptolemy suggested the idea in order to preserve symmetry of landmass in the world. Depictions of a large southern landmass were common in maps such as the early 16th century Turkish Piri Reis map. Even in the late 17th century, after explorers had found that South America and Australia were not part of "Antarctica," geographers believed that the continent was much larger than its actual size.

 

European maps continued to show this land until Captain James Cook's ships, HMS Resolution and Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle on January 17, 1773 and again in 1774. The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica can be narrowed down to the crews of ships captained by three individuals. According to various organizations (the National Science Foundation, NASA, the University of California, San Diego, and other sources), ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica in 1820: Fabian von Bellingshausen (a captain in the Russian Imperial Navy), Edward Bransfield (a captain in the British Navy), and Nathaniel Palmer (an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut). Von Bellingshausen supposedly saw Antarctica on January 27, 1820, three days before Bransfield sighted land, and ten months before Palmer did so in November 1820. On that day the two ship expedition led by Von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev reached a point within 32 km (20 miles) of the Antarctic mainland and saw ice fields there.

 

In 1841, explorer James Clark Ross passed through what is now known as the Ross Sea and discovered Ross Island. He sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the Ross Ice Shelf. Mount Erebus and Mount Terror are named after two ships from his expedition: HMS Erebus and Terror.

 

 

World location map Antarctica, the south pole

 

 

 

During an expedition led by Ernest Shackleton in 1907, parties led by T. W. Edgeworth David became the first to climb Mount Erebus and to reach the South Magnetic Pole. In addition, Shackleton himself and three other members of his expedition made several firsts in December 1908 - February 1909: first humans to traverse the Ross Ice Shelf, the first humans to traverse the Transantarctic Mountain Range (via the Beardmore Glacier), and the first humans to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. On December 14, 1911, a party led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship Fram became the first to reach the geographic South Pole, using a route from the Bay of Whales and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. 

 

Richard Evelyn Byrd led several voyages to the Antarctic by plane in the 1930s and 1940s. He is credited with implementing mechanized land transport and conducting extensive geological and biological research. However, it was not until October 31, 1956 that anyone set foot on the South Pole again; on that day a U.S. Navy group led by Rear Admiral George Dufek successfully landed an aircraft there.

 

 

Geography

 

Most of Antarctica is located south of the Antarctic Circle, surrounded by the Southern Ocean. It is the southernmost land mass and comprises more than 14 million km², making it the fifth-largest continent. The coastline measures 17 968 km (11,160 miles) and is mostly characterized by ice formations, as the following table shows:

 

Coastal types around Antarctica (Drewry, 1983)

 

Type

Frequency

Ice shelf (floating ice front)

44%

Ice walls (resting on ground)

38%

Ice stream/outlet glacier (ice front or ice wall)

13%

Rock

5%

Total

100%

 

 

Physically, it is divided in two by the Transantarctic Mountains close to the neck between the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. The portion west of the Weddell Sea and east of the Ross Sea is called Western Antarctica and the remainder Eastern Antarctica, because they roughly correspond to the Western and Eastern Hemispheres relative to the Greenwich meridian.

 

About 98% of Antarctica is covered by the Antarctic ice sheet. The ice sheet is, on average, 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) thick. The continent has approximately 90% of the world's fresh water, in the form of ice. In most of the interior of the continent precipitation is very low, down to 20 mm/yr; in a few "blue ice" areas precipitation is lower than mass loss by sublimation and so the local mass balance is negative. In the dry valleys the same effect occurs over a rock base, leading to a desiccated landscape.

 

Western Antarctica is covered by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The sheet has been of recent concern because of the real, if small, possibility of its collapse. If the sheet were to break down, ocean levels would rise by several meters in a relatively geologically short period of time, perhaps a matter of centuries. Several Antarctic ice streams, which account for about 10% of the ice sheet, flow to one of the many Antarctic ice shelves.

 

Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica at 4892 meters (16,050 feet), is located in the Ellsworth Mountains. Although Antarctica is home to many volcanoes, only Mt. Erebus is active. Mount Erebus, located in Ross Island, is the southernmost active volcano. There was another famous volcano called Deception Island, which is famous for its giant eruption in 1970. Minor eruptions are frequent and lava flow has been observed in recent years. Other dormant volcanoes may potentially be active. In 2004, an underwater volcano was found in the Antarctic Peninsula by American and Canadian researchers. Recent evidence shows this unnamed volcano may be active.

 

Antarctica is home to more than 70 lakes that lie thousands of meters under the surface of the continental ice sheet. Lake Vostok, discovered beneath Russia's Vostok Station in 1996, is the largest of these subglacial lakes. It is believed that the lake has been sealed off for 35 million years. There is some evidence that Vostok's waters may contain microbial life. The sealed, frozen surface of the lake shares similarities with Jupiter's moon Europa. Confirming that life can survive in Lake Vostok strengthens the argument for life on the satellite.

 

 

Sectasaur antactica book cover: John Storm sledge and huskies, a south pole adventure by Jameson Hunter

 

Antarctica is the stage for another John Storm adventure when scientists

find the remains of a prehistoric animal that may have caused the extinction

of the dinosaurs

 

 

FACTS - Antarctica Geological history and paleontology


More than 170 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Over time, Gondwana gradually broke apart and Antarctica as we know it today was formed around 25 million years ago. Antarctica was not always cold, dry and covered in ice sheets. At a number of points in its long history it was farther north, experienced a tropical or temperate climate, was covered in forests, and inhabited by various ancient life-forms.
Paleozoic era (540–250 Ma)


During the Cambrian period, Gondwana had a mild climate. West Antarctica was partially in the Northern Hemisphere, and during this period large amounts of sandstones, limestones and shales were deposited. East Antarctica was at the equator, where sea floor invertebrates and trilobites flourished in the tropical seas. By the start of the Devonian period (416 Ma), Gondwana was in more southern latitudes and the climate was cooler, though fossils of land plants are known from this time. Sand and silts were laid down in what is now the Ellsworth, Horlick and Pensacola Mountains. Glaciation began at the end of the Devonian period (360 Ma), as Gondwana became centered around the South Pole and the climate cooled, though flora remained. During the Permian period, the plant life became dominated by fern-like plants such as Glossopteris, which grew in swamps. Over time these swamps became deposits of coal in the Transantarctic Mountains. Towards the end of the Permian period, continued warming led to a dry, hot climate over much of Gondwana.

 


Mesozoic era (250–65 Ma)


As a result of continued warming, the polar ice caps melted and much of Gondwana became a desert. In Eastern Antarctica, the seed fern became established, and large amounts of sandstone and shale were laid down at this time. Synapsids, commonly known as "mammal-like reptiles", were common in Antarctica during the Late Permian and Early Triassic and included forms such as Lystrosaurus. The Antarctic Peninsula began to form during the Jurassic period (206–146 Ma), and islands gradually rose out of the ocean. Ginkgo trees and cycads were plentiful during this period. In West Antarctica, coniferous forests dominated through the entire Cretaceous period (146–65 Ma), though Southern beech began to take over at the end of this period. Ammonites were common in the seas around Antarctica, and dinosaurs were also present, though only three Antarctic dinosaur genera (Cryolophosaurus and Glacialisaurus, from the Hanson Formation, and Antarctopelta) have been described to date. It was during this period that Gondwana began to break up.

 

 

Active volcano Antartic, mount erebus. John Storm and Sectasaur

 

Mount erebus, an active volcano in Antarctica

 


Gondwanaland breakup (160–23 Ma)


The cooling of Antarctica occurred stepwise, as the continental spread changed the oceanic currents from longitudinal equator-to-pole temperature-equalizing currents to latitudinal currents that preserved and accentuated latitude temperature differences.


Africa separated from Antarctica around 160 Ma, followed by the Indian subcontinent, in the early Cretaceous (about 125 Ma). About 65 Ma, Antarctica (then connected to Australia) still had a tropical to subtropical climate, complete with a marsupial fauna. About 40 Ma Australia-New Guinea separated from Antarctica, so that latitudinal currents could isolate Antarctica from Australia, and the first ice began to appear. During the Eocene-Oligocene extinction event about 34 million years ago, CO2 levels have been found to be about 760 ppm and had been decreasing from earlier levels in the thousands of ppm. Around 23 Ma, the Drake Passage opened between Antarctica and South America, resulting in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that completely isolated the continent. Models of the changes suggest that declining CO2 levels became more important. The ice began to spread, replacing the forests that then covered the continent. Since about 15 Ma, the continent has been mostly covered with ice, with the Antarctic ice cap reaching its present extension around 6 Ma.

 


Neogene Period (23–0.05 mya)


In 1986, Peter Webb and a team of paleontologists at Ohio State University discovered the remains of an extensive temperate forest that flourished 640 kilometres (400 mi) from the South Pole 3 million years ago.

 

 

Blue ice at Lake Tryxell, tranantactic mountains. Sectasaur, a John Storm book by Jameson Hunter

 

Blue ice at Lake Tryxell, tranantactic mountains

 

 

History of exploration - Antarctic expeditions

An iceberg dwarfs a ship in this 1920s English magazine illustration of a whaler in the Antarctic.
Belief in the existence of a Terra Australis – a vast continent in the far south of the globe to "balance" the northern lands of Europe, Asia and North Africa – has existed since the times of Ptolemy (1st century AD), who suggested the idea to preserve the symmetry of all known landmasses in the world. Even in the late 17th century, after explorers had found that South America and Australia were not part of the fabled "Antarctica", geographers believed that the continent was much larger than its actual size.


European maps continued to show this hypothetical land until Captain James Cook's ships, HMS Resolution and Adventure, crossed the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773, in December 1773 and again in January 1774. Cook came within about 75 miles (121 km) of the Antarctic coast before retreating in the face of field ice in January 1773. The first confirmed sighting of Antarctica can be narrowed down to the crews of ships captained by three individuals. According to various organizations (the National Science Foundation, NASA, the University of California, San Diego, and other sources), ships captained by three men sighted Antarctica in 1820: Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (an Estonian-born captain in the Imperial Russian Navy), Edward Bransfield (an Irish-born captain in the Royal Navy), and Nathaniel Palmer (an American sealer out of Stonington, Connecticut). Von Bellingshausen saw Antarctica on 27 January 1820, three days before Bransfield sighted land, and ten months before Palmer did so in November 1820. On that day the expedition led by Von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev on ships Vostok and Mirny reached a point within 32 km (20 mi) of the Antarctic mainland and saw ice fields there. The first documented landing on mainland Antarctica was by the American sealer John Davis in West Antarctica on 7 February 1821, although some historians dispute this claim.


On 22 January 1840, two days after the discovery of the coast west of the Balleny Islands, some members of the crew of the 1837-40 expedition of Jules Dumont d'Urville disembarked on the highest islet of a group of rocky islands about 4 km from Cape Geodesie on the coast of Adélie land where they took some mineral, algae and animal samples.


In December 1839, as part of the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838–42 conducted by the United States Navy (sometimes called the "Ex. Ex.", or "the Wilkes Expedition"), an expedition sailed from Sydney, Australia, into the Antarctic Ocean, as it was then known, and reported the discovery "of an Antarctic continent west of the Balleny Islands" on 25 January 1840. That part of Antarctica was later named "Wilkes Land", a name it maintains to this day.

Explorer James Clark Ross passed through what is now known as the Ross Sea and discovered Ross Island (both of which were named for him) in 1841. He sailed along a huge wall of ice that was later named the Ross Ice Shelf. Mount Erebus and Mount Terror are named after two ships from his expedition: HMS Erebus and Terror. Mercator Cooper landed in East Antarctica on 26 January 1853.


During the Nimrod Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton in 1907, parties led by Edgeworth David became the first to climb Mount Erebus and to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Douglas Mawson, who assumed the leadership of the Magnetic Pole party on their perilous return, went on to lead several expeditions until retiring in 1931. In addition, Shackleton himself and three other members of his expedition made several firsts in December 1908 – February 1909: they were the first humans to traverse the Ross Ice Shelf, the first to traverse the Transantarctic Mountain Range (via the Beardmore Glacier), and the first to set foot on the South Polar Plateau. An expedition led by Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen from the ship Fram became the first to reach the geographic South Pole on 14 December 1911, using a route from the Bay of Whales and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier. One month later, the doomed Scott Expedition reached the pole.


Richard E. Byrd led several voyages to the Antarctic by plane in the 1930s and 1940s. He is credited with implementing mechanized land transport on the continent and conducting extensive geological and biological research. However, it was not until 31 October 1956 that anyone set foot on the South Pole again; on that day a U.S. Navy group led by Rear Admiral George J. Dufek successfully landed an aircraft there.


The first person to sail single-handed to Antarctica was the New Zealander David Henry Lewis, in a 10-meter steel sloop Ice Bird.

 

 

Climate of Antarctica


Antarctica is the coldest of Earth's continents. The coldest natural temperature ever recorded on Earth was −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F) at the Russian Vostok Station in Antarctica on 21 July 1983.[40] For comparison, this is 11 °C (20 °F) colder than subliming dry ice. Antarctica is a frozen desert with little precipitation; the South Pole itself receives less than 10 cm (4 in) per year, on average.

 

Temperatures reach a minimum of between −80 °C (−112 °F) and −90 °C (−130 °F) in the interior in winter and reach a maximum of between 5 °C (41 °F) and 15 °C (59 °F) near the coast in summer. Sunburn is often a health issue as the snow surface reflects almost all of the ultraviolet light falling on it.

The snow surface at Dome C Station is typical of most of the continent's surface.


East Antarctica is colder than its western counterpart because of its higher elevation. Weather fronts rarely penetrate far into the continent, leaving the center cold and dry. Despite the lack of precipitation over the central portion of the continent, ice there lasts for extended time periods. Heavy snowfalls are not uncommon on the coastal portion of the continent, where snowfalls of up to 1.22 metres (48 in) in 48 hours have been recorded.


At the edge of the continent, strong katabatic winds off the polar plateau often blow at storm force. In the interior, however, wind speeds are typically moderate. During summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface during clear days at the South Pole than at the equator because of the 24 hours of sunlight each day at the Pole.


Antarctica is colder than the Arctic for two reasons. First, much of the continent is more than 3 kilometres (2 mi) above sea level, and temperature decreases with elevation. Second, the Arctic Ocean covers the north polar zone: the ocean's relative warmth is transferred through the icepack and prevents temperatures in the Arctic regions from reaching the extremes typical of the land surface of Antarctica. Given the latitude, long periods of constant darkness or constant sunlight create climates unfamiliar to human beings in much of the rest of the world.


The aurora australis, commonly known as the southern lights, is a glow observed in the night sky near the South Pole created by the plasma-full solar winds that pass by the Earth. Another unique spectacle is diamond dust, a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. It generally forms under otherwise clear or nearly clear skies, so people sometimes also refer to it as clear-sky precipitation. A sun dog, a frequent atmospheric optical phenomenon, is a bright "spot" beside the true sun.

 


Population - Demographics of Antarctica and Research stations of Antarctica

The "ceremonial" South Pole, at Amundsen-Scott Station


A number of governments maintain permanent manned research stations throughout the continent. The number of people conducting and supporting scientific research and other work on the continent and its nearby islands varies from about 1,000 in winter to about 5,000 in the summer. Many of the stations are staffed year-round, the winter-over personnel typically arriving from their home countries for a one-year assignment. An Orthodox church, Trinity Church, opened in 2004 at the Russian Bellingshausen Station is also manned year-round by one or two priests, who are similarly rotated every year.


The first semi-permanent inhabitants of regions near Antarctica (areas situated south of the Antarctic Convergence) were British and American sealers who used to spend a year or more on South Georgia, from 1786 onward. During the whaling era, which lasted until 1966, the population of that island varied from over 1,000 in the summer (over 2,000 in some years) to some 200 in the winter. Most of the whalers were Norwegian, with an increasing proportion of Britons. The settlements included Grytviken, Leith Harbour, King Edward Point, Stromness, Husvik, Prince Olav Harbour, Ocean Harbour and Godthul. Managers and other senior officers of the whaling stations often lived together with their families. Among them was the founder of Grytviken, Captain Carl Anton Larsen, a prominent Norwegian whaler and explorer who, along with his family, adopted British citizenship in 1910.


The first child born in the southern polar region was Norwegian girl Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen, born in Grytviken on 8 October 1913, and her birth was registered by the resident British Magistrate of South Georgia. She was a daughter of Fridthjof Jacobsen, the assistant manager of the whaling station, and of Klara Olette Jacobsen. Jacobsen arrived on the island in 1904 and became the manager of Grytviken, serving from 1914 to 1921; two of his children were born on the island.


Emilio Marcos Palma was the first person born south of the 60th parallel south (the continental limit according to the Antarctic Treaty), as well as the first one born on the Antarctic mainland, in 1978 at Base Esperanza, on the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula; his parents were sent there along with seven other families by the Argentine government to determine if family life was suitable on the continent. In 1984, Juan Pablo Camacho was born at the Frei Montalva Station, becoming the first Chilean born in Antarctica. Several bases are now home to families with children attending schools at the station. As of 2009, eleven children were born in Antarctica (south of the 60th parallel south): eight at the Argentinean Esperanza Base and three at the Chilean Frei Montalva Station.

 

Biodiversity - Antarctic ecozone and Antarctic microorganism

Emperor Penguins in Ross Sea, Antarctica


Few terrestrial vertebrates live in Antarctica. Invertebrate life includes microscopic mites like the Alaskozetes antarcticus, lice, nematodes, tardigrades, rotifers, krill and springtails. The flightless midge Belgica antarctica, up to 6 millimetres (0.2 in) in size, is the largest purely terrestrial animal in Antarctica. The Snow Petrel is one of only three birds that breed exclusively in Antarctica.
A variety of marine animals exist and rely, directly or indirectly, on the phytoplankton. Antarctic sea life includes penguins, blue whales, orcas, colossal squids and fur seals. The Emperor penguin is the only penguin that breeds during the winter in Antarctica, while the Adélie Penguin breeds farther south than any other penguin. The Rockhopper penguin has distinctive feathers around the eyes, giving the appearance of elaborate eyelashes. King penguins, Chinstrap penguins, and Gentoo Penguins also breed in the Antarctic.


The Antarctic fur seal was very heavily hunted in the 18th and 19th centuries for its pelt by sealers from the United States and the United Kingdom. The Weddell Seal, a "true seal", is named after Sir James Weddell, commander of British sealing expeditions in the Weddell Sea. Antarctic krill, which congregates in large schools, is the keystone species of the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, and is an important food organism for whales, seals, leopard seals, fur seals, squid, icefish, penguins, albatrosses and many other birds.


A census of sea life carried out during the International Polar Year and which involved some 500 researchers was released in 2010. The research is part of the global Census of Marine Life (CoML) and has disclosed some remarkable findings. More than 235 marine organisms live in both polar regions, having bridged the gap of 12,000 km (7,456 mi). Large animals such as some cetaceans and birds make the round trip annually. More surprising are small forms of life such as mudworms, sea cucumbers and free-swimming snails found in both polar oceans. Various factors may aid in their distribution – fairly uniform temperatures of the deep ocean at the poles and the equator which differ by no more than 5 °C, and the major current systems or marine conveyor belt which transport egg and larvae stages.


About 400 species of lichen-forming fungi are known to exist in Antarctica.

 


The climate of Antarctica does not allow extensive vegetation. A combination of freezing temperatures, poor soil quality, lack of moisture, and lack of sunlight inhibit plant growth. As a result, the diversity of plant life is very small and limited in distribution. Excluding organisms which are not plants (algae and fungi, including lichen-forming species), the flora of the continent largely consists of bryophytes (there are about 100 species of mosses and 25 species of liverworts), with only two species of flowering plants, both found in the Antarctic Peninsula: Deschampsia antarctica (Antarctic hair grass) and Colobanthus quitensis (Antarctic pearlwort). Growth generally occurs in the summer, and only for a few weeks at most.


About 1150 species of fungi have been recorded from Antarctica, of which about 750 are non-lichen-forming and 400 are lichen-forming. Some of these species are cryptoendoliths as a result of evolution under extreme conditions. Seven hundred species of algae exist, most of which are phytoplankton. Multicolored snow algae and diatoms are especially abundant in the coastal regions during the summer. Recently ancient ecosystems consisting of several types of bacteria have been found living trapped deep beneath glaciers. The autotrophic community is made up of mostly protists.

 


Conservation

The dumping of waste (even old vehicles), such as here at the Russian Bellingshausen Station in 1992, is prohibited since the entry into force of the Protocol on Environmental Protection in 1998.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (also known as the Environmental Protocol or Madrid Protocol) came into force in 1998, and is the main instrument concerned with conservation and management of biodiversity in Antarctica. The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting is advised on environmental and conservation issues in Antarctica by the Committee for Environmental Protection. A major concern within this committee is the risk to Antarctica from unintentional introduction of non-native species from outside the region.


The passing of the Antarctic Conservation Act (1978) in the U.S. brought several restrictions to U.S. activity on Antarctica. The introduction of alien plants or animals can bring a criminal penalty, as can the extraction of any indigenous species. The overfishing of krill, which plays a large role in the Antarctic ecosystem, led officials to enact regulations on fishing. The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a treaty that came into force in 1980, requires that regulations managing all Southern Ocean fisheries consider potential effects on the entire Antarctic ecosystem. Despite these new acts, unregulated and illegal fishing, particularly of Patagonian toothfish (marketed as Chilean Sea Bass in the U.S.), remains a serious problem. The illegal fishing of toothfish has been increasing, with estimates of 32,000 tonnes (35,300 short tons) in 2000.

 


Politics

Emblem of the Antarctic Treaty since 2002.


Antarctica has no government, although various countries claim sovereignty in certain regions. While a few of these countries have mutually recognised each other's claims, the validity of these claims is generally not recognised universally.


New claims on Antarctica have been suspended since 1959 and the continent is considered politically neutral. Its status is regulated by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and other related agreements, collectively called the Antarctic Treaty System. Antarctica is defined as all land and ice shelves south of 60° S for the purposes of the Treaty System. The treaty was signed by twelve countries including the Soviet Union (and later Russia), the United Kingdom, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and the United States. It set aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, established freedom of scientific investigation and environmental protection, and banned military activity on the continent. This was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.


In 1983, the Antarctic Treaty Parties began negotiations on a convention to regulate mining in Antarctica. A coalition of international organisations launched a public pressure campaign to prevent any minerals development in the region, led largely by Greenpeace International which established its own scientific station–World Park Base–in the Ross Sea region and conducted annual expeditions to document environmental effects of humans on the continent. In 1988, the Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resources (CRAMRA) was adopted. The following year, however, Australia and France announced that they would not ratify the convention, rendering it dead for all intents and purposes. They proposed instead that a comprehensive regime to protect the Antarctic environment be negotiated in its place. The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (the ‘Madrid Protocol’) was negotiated as other countries followed suit and on 14 January 1998 it entered into force. The Madrid Protocol bans all mining in Antarctica, designating the continent as a ‘natural reserve devoted to peace and science’.


HMS Endurance: the Royal Navy's Antarctic patrol ship


The Antarctic Treaty prohibits any military activity in Antarctica, including the establishment of military bases and fortifications, military manoeuvers, and weapons testing. Military personnel or equipment are permitted only for scientific research or other peaceful purposes. The only documented military land manoeuvre was Operation NINETY by the Argentine military.


The United States military issues the Antarctica Service Medal to military members or civilians who perform research duty in Antarctica. The medal includes a "wintered over" bar issued to those who remain on the continent for 2 six-month seasons.

 

 

Economy of Antarctica

The illegal capture and sale of the Patagonian toothfish has led to several arrests. Pictured here is the Antarctic toothfish, a sister species.


Although coal, hydrocarbons, iron ore, platinum, copper, chromium, nickel, gold and other minerals have been found, they have not been in large enough quantities to exploit. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty also restricts a struggle for resources. In 1998, a compromise agreement was reached to place an indefinite ban on mining, to be reviewed in 2048, further limiting economic development and exploitation. The primary economic activity is the capture and offshore trading of fish. Antarctic fisheries in 2000–01 reported landing 112,934 tonnes.


Small-scale "expedition tourism" has existed since 1957 and is currently subject to Antarctic Treaty and Environmental Protocol provisions, but in effect self-regulated by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Not all vessels associated with Antarctic tourism are members of IAATO, but IAATO members account for 95% of the tourist activity. Travel is largely by small or medium ship, focusing on specific scenic locations with accessible concentrations of iconic wildlife. A total of 37,506 tourists visited during the 2006–07 Austral summer with nearly all of them coming from commercial ships. The number is predicted to increase to over 80,000 by 2010.


There has been some concern over the potential adverse environmental and ecosystem effects caused by the influx of visitors. A call for stricter regulations for ships and a tourism quota has been made by some environmentalists and scientists. The primary response by Antarctic Treaty Parties has been to develop, through their Committee for Environmental Protection and in partnership with IAATO, "site use guidelines" setting landing limits and closed or restricted zones on the more frequently visited sites. Antarctic sight seeing flights (which did not land) operated out of Australia and New Zealand until the fatal crash of Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979 on Mount Erebus, which killed all 257 aboard. Qantas resumed commercial overflights to Antarctica from Australia in the mid-1990s.

 


Research


A full moon and 25-second exposure allowed sufficient light for this photo to be taken at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station during the long Antarctic night. The station can be seen at far left, the power plant in the center and the mechanic's garage in the lower right. The green light in the background is the Aurora Australis.


Each year, scientists from 28 different nations conduct experiments not reproducible in any other place in the world. In the summer more than 4,000 scientists operate research stations; this number decreases to just over 1,000 in the winter. McMurdo Station, which is the largest research station in Antarctica, is capable of housing more than 1,000 scientists, visitors, and tourists.


Researchers include biologists, geologists, oceanographers, physicists, astronomers, glaciologists, and meteorologists. Geologists tend to study plate tectonics, meteorites from outer space, and resources from the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana. Glaciologists in Antarctica are concerned with the study of the history and dynamics of floating ice, seasonal snow, glaciers, and ice sheets. Biologists, in addition to examining the wildlife, are interested in how harsh temperatures and the presence of people affect adaptation and survival strategies in a wide variety of organisms. Medical physicians have made discoveries concerning the spreading of viruses and the body's response to extreme seasonal temperatures. Astrophysicists at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station study the celestial dome and cosmic microwave background radiation. Many astronomical observations are better made from the interior of Antarctica than from most surface locations because of the high elevation, which results in a thin atmosphere, low temperature, which minimizes the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, and absence of light pollution, thus allowing for a view of space clearer than anywhere else on Earth. Antarctic ice serves as both the shield and the detection medium for the largest neutrino telescope in the world, built 2 km (1.2 mi) below Amundsen-Scott station.


Since the 1970s, an important focus of study has been the ozone layer in the atmosphere above Antarctica. In 1985, three British Scientists working on data they had gathered at Halley Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf discovered the existence of a hole in this layer. It was eventually determined that the destruction of the ozone was caused by chlorofluorocarbons emitted by human products. With the ban of CFCs in the Montreal Protocol of 1989, it is believed that the ozone hole will close up by around 2065. In September 2006, NASA satellite data showed that the Antarctic ozone hole was the largest on record, covering 27.5 million km2 (10.6 million sq mi).


On 6 September 2007, Belgian-based International Polar Foundation unveiled the Princess Elisabeth station, the world's first zero-emissions polar science station in Antarctica to research climate change. Costing $16.3 million, the prefabricated station, which is part of International Polar Year, was shipped to the South Pole from Belgium by the end of 2008 to monitor the health of the polar regions. Belgian polar explorer Alain Hubert stated: "This base will be the first of its kind to produce zero emissions, making it a unique model of how energy should be used in the Antarctic." Johan Berte is the leader of the station design team and manager of the project which conducts research in climatology, glaciology and microbiology.


In January 2008, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists, led by Hugh Corr and David Vaughan, reported (in the journal Nature Geoscience) that 2,200 years ago, a volcano erupted under Antarctica's ice sheet (based on airborne survey with radar images). The biggest eruption in Antarctica in the last 10,000 years, the volcanic ash was found deposited on the ice surface under the Hudson Mountains, close to Pine Island Glacier.

 


Meteorites


Meteorites from Antarctica are an important area of study of material formed early in the solar system; most are thought to come from asteroids, but some may have originated on larger planets. The first meteorites were found in 1912. In 1969, a Japanese expedition discovered nine meteorites. Most of these meteorites have fallen onto the ice sheet in the last million years. Motion of the ice sheet tends to concentrate the meteorites at blocking locations such as mountain ranges, with wind erosion bringing them to the surface after centuries beneath accumulated snowfall. Compared with meteorites collected in more temperate regions on Earth, the Antarctic meteorites are well-preserved.


This large collection of meteorites allows a better understanding of the abundance of meteorite types in the solar system and how meteorites relate to asteroids and comets. New types of meteorites and rare meteorites have been found. Among these are pieces blasted off the Moon, and probably Mars, by impacts. These specimens, particularly ALH84001 discovered by ANSMET, are at the center of the controversy about possible evidence of microbial life on Mars. Because meteorites in space absorb and record cosmic radiation, the time elapsed since the meteorite hit the Earth can be determined from laboratory studies. The elapsed time since fall, or terrestrial residence age, of a meteorite represents more information that might be useful in environmental studies of Antarctic ice sheets.


In 2006, a team of researchers from Ohio State University used gravity measurements by NASA's GRACE satellites to discover the 300-mile (480 km)-wide Wilkes Land crater, which probably formed about 250 million years ago.

 


Ice mass and global sea level


Due to its location at the South Pole, Antarctica receives relatively little solar radiation. This means that it is a very cold continent where water is mostly in the form of ice. Precipitation is low (most of Antarctica is a desert) and almost always in the form of snow, which accumulates and forms a giant ice sheet which covers the land. Parts of this ice sheet form moving glaciers known as ice streams, which flow towards the edges of the continent. Next to the continental shore are many ice shelves. These are floating extensions of outflowing glaciers from the continental ice mass. Offshore, temperatures are also low enough that ice is formed from seawater through most of the year. It is important to understand the various types of Antarctic ice to understand possible effects on sea levels and the implications of global warming.


Sea ice extent expands annually in the Antarctic winter and most of this ice melts in the summer. This ice is formed from the ocean water and floats in the same water and thus does not contribute to rise in sea level. The extent of sea ice around Antarctica has remained roughly constant in recent decades, although the thickness changes are unclear.


Melting of floating ice shelves (ice that originated on the land) does not in itself contribute much to sea-level rise (since the ice displaces only its own mass of water). However it is the outflow of the ice from the land to form the ice shelf which causes a rise in global sea level. This effect is offset by snow falling back onto the continent. Recent decades have witnessed several dramatic collapses of large ice shelves around the coast of Antarctica, especially along the Antarctic Peninsula. Concerns have been raised that disruption of ice shelves may result in increased glacial outflow from the continental ice mass.


On the continent itself, the large volume of ice present stores around 70% of the world's fresh water. This ice sheet is constantly gaining ice from snowfall and losing ice through outflow to the sea. West Antarctica is currently experiencing a net outflow of glacial ice, which will increase global sea level over time. A review of the scientific studies looking at data from 1992 to 2006 suggested that a net loss of around 50 gigatonnes of ice per year was a reasonable estimate (around 0.14 mm of sea level rise). Significant acceleration of outflow glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment may have more than doubled this figure for 2006.


East Antarctica is a cold region with a ground base above sea level and occupies most of the continent. This area is dominated by small accumulations of snowfall which becomes ice and thus eventually seaward glacial flows. The mass balance of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet as a whole is thought to be slightly positive (lowering sea level) or near to balance. However, increased ice outflow has been suggested in some regions.

Effects of global warming - Warming trend from 1957–2006

Some of Antarctica has been warming up; particularly strong warming has been noted on the Antarctic Peninsula. A study by Eric Steig published in 2009 noted for the first time that the continent-wide average surface temperature trend of Antarctica is slightly positive at >0.05 °C (0.09 °F) per decade from 1957 to 2006. This study also noted that West Antarctica has warmed by more than 0.1 °C (0.2 °F) per decade in the last 50 years, and this warming is strongest in winter and spring. This is partly offset by fall cooling in East Antarctica. There is evidence from one study that Antarctica is warming as a result of human carbon dioxide emissions. However, the small amount of surface warming in West Antarctica is not believed to be directly affecting the West Antarctic Ice Sheet's contribution to sea level. Instead the recent increases in glacier outflow are believed to be due to an inflow of warm water from the deep ocean, just off the continental shelf. The net contribution to sea level from the Antarctic Peninsula is more likely to be a direct result of the much greater atmospheric warming there.


In 2002 the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen-B ice shelf collapsed. Between 28 February and 8 March 2008, about 570 square kilometres (220 sq mi) of ice from the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the southwest part of the peninsula collapsed, putting the remaining 15,000 km2 (5,800 sq mi) of the ice shelf at risk. The ice was being held back by a "thread" of ice about 6 km (4 mi) wide, prior to its collapse on 5 April 2009. According to NASA, the most widespread Antarctic surface melting of the past 30 years occurred in 2005, when an area of ice comparable in size to California briefly melted and refroze; this may have resulted from temperatures rising to as high as 5 °C (41 °F).

 


Ozone depletion

Each year a large area of low ozone concentration or "ozone hole" grows over Antarctica. This hole covers almost the whole continent and was at its largest in September 2008, when the longest lasting hole on record remained until the end of December. The hole was detected by scientists in 1985 and has tended to increase over the years of observation. The ozone hole is attributed to the emission of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs into the atmosphere, which decompose the ozone into other gases.


Some scientific studies suggest that ozone depletion may have a dominant role in governing climatic change in Antarctica (and a wider area of the Southern Hemisphere). Ozone absorbs large amounts of ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere. Ozone depletion over Antarctica can cause a cooling of around 6 °C in the local stratosphere. This cooling has the effect of intensifying the westerly winds which flow around the continent (the polar vortex) and thus prevents outflow of the cold air near the South Pole. As a result, the continental mass of the East Antarctic ice sheet is held at lower temperatures, and the peripheral areas of Antarctica, especially the Antarctic Peninsula, are subject to higher temperatures, which promote accelerated melting. Models also suggest that the ozone depletion/enhanced polar vortex effect also accounts for the recent increase in sea-ice just offshore of the continent.

 

Antarctic meteorite, named ALH84001, from Mars

 

LINKS and REFERENCE

  1. National Geophysical Data Center. National Satellite, Data, and Information Service. 

  2. Liddell, Henry George and Scott, Robert (1940). ἀνταρκτικός. A Greek-English Lexicon. Clarendon Press. 

  3. https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ay.html#People

  4. The Mariners' Museum. Age of Exploration: John Cook

  5. U.S. Antarctic Program External Panel of the National Science Foundation. Antarctica—Past and Present

  6. NASA, U.S. Government Palmer biography 

  7. University of California, San Diego Palmer Station 

  8. South-Pole An Antarctic Time Line : 1519 - 1959

  9. Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements. Antarctic Explorers Timeline: Early 1800s

  10. James Clark Ross South-Pole - Exploring Antarctica. 

  11. Australian Antarctic Division. Tannatt William Edgeworth David 

  12. South-pole Roald Amundsen South-Pole - Exploring Antarctica. 

  13. 70South. Richard Byrd

  14. U.S. Navy. Dates in American Naval History: October

  15. Central Intelligence Agency Factbook 

  16. British Antarctic Survey. Volcanoes

  17. National Science Foundation. Scientists Discover Undersea Volcano Off Antarctica

  18. National Science Foundation Lake Vostok 

  19. NASA Lake Vostok may teach us about Europa 

  20. (June 2002) Stonehouse, B. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-98665-8.

  21. (September 2002) Trewby, Mary (ed.) Antarctica: An Encyclopedia from Abbott Ice Shelf to Zooplankton. Firefly Books. ISBN 1-55297-590-8.

  22. British Antarctic Survey. Weather in the Antarctic 

  23. R.K. Headland, The Island of South Georgia, Cambridge University Press, 1984.

  24. The Antarctic Sun Questions and answers 

  25. Australian Antarctic Division Antarctic Wildlife 

  26. Creatures of Antarctica 

  27. BBC News. Toothfish at risk from illegal catches

  28. Australian Antarctic Division. Toothfish

  29. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Antarctic Treaty 

  30. Antarctica Institute of Argentina. Argentina in Antarctica 

  31. U.S. Navy Antarctic Service Medal 

  32. United States CIA World Factbook 

  33. International association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Tourism Statistics.

  34. Politics of Antarctica 

  35. Telegraph UK. Tourism threatens Antarctic

  36. Antarctic Connection Science in Antarctica 

  37.  NASA Meteorites from Antarctica 

  38. Gorder, Pam Frost (June 1, 2006). Big Bang in Antarctica -- Killer Crater Found Under Ice. Research News.

 

 

 

 

Antarctica in 5 mins  - Youtube

 

Robert Falcon Scott - Youtube

 

Horrible Histories - Youtube

 

Exploring Antarctica - Youtube

 

Exploring Antarctica - Youtube

 

Roald Amundsen - Youtube

 

 

 

 

 

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Artwork by Martin House for the John Storm adventure novel series

 

A heartwarming adventure: Pirate whalers V Conservationists, 

with an environmental message.

For release as an e-book in 2013 with hopes for a film in 2015 TBA

(graphic design: Martin House)

 

 

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