Extreme Environments:. Antarctica. By Charlotte Breakspear. Antarctica.
Antarctica is the only continent without countries. 98% of the land is made up of a three-mile-deep ice sheet while the other 2% is barren rock. All of the ice in Antarctica makes up about 88% of the Earth’s ice. Antarctica is about 5,400,000 square miles and has many mountains.
4000 scientists work in Antarctica every summer, but only 1000 work during the winter. There are 53 research stations, but only 43 research stations are working. There are no permanent human residents due to the extreme weather.
There are only two seasons in Antarctica: Summer and Winter.
Summer begins in October and ends in February. During these days, the sun never sets.
During winter from March to September, the sun never rises.
Antarctica has very extreme weather. It has freeing temperatures, strong winds, raging blizzards, and almost no rain or snow. It can drop down to –73 degrees Celsius and winds can go at 200 miles per hour!
Antarctica is also considered a desert because of the little rain it gets.
Because of the extreme weather, there is very little life in Antarctica. Insects and plants such as small wingless flies, lichen, moss, and grasses appear during the summer. Some birds migrate to Antarctica during summer as well. These include the Arctic Tern, the Albatross, the Snow Petrel, and the Cape Pigeon. Orcas and Blue Whales migrate to Antarctica also.
The only animals and birds to stay all year round are Penguins, Seals, Krill, and Skuas. Penguins have a thick layer of body fat and dense feathers to stay dry and to keep warm when they are in the water.
Some fish, like the Antarctic Ice Fish (Chaenocephalus Aceratus) have anti-freeze molecules to keep them alive in the cold water.
The first difficult thing about surviving in Antarctica is the extreme weather. It is always really cold, and you can’t always make a fire because of the wind.
The second is the seasons. In winter, there is no sun to give a little bit of heat, and in summer the sun never sets so it is light for six months.
The third is that when you need something like food or a new cup, you can’t just walk along the street to the nearest store and buy it. You have to either bring everything you or could possibly need with you and hope nothing breaks, or you can bring most things and then wait for about a month when a ship comes in with supplies for the scientists needs.
Some obstacles to exploring Antarctica is again, the extreme weather, and the ice. With Antarctica’s extreme weather condition, you don’t always know when a blizzard might just spring up on you. And there is ice. When you need to explore what is under the ground you are standing on, you need to be able to dig through the three-mile thick ice.
In January, Scientists John Priscu and his team traveled to Antarctica to see if they could find life under the ice. On January 28th, they drilled a hole into Lake Williams, a 60 square kilometre lake on the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in west Antarctica. After 800 metres of drilling, they broke into the lakes surface. They lowered a camera down to make sure that the space was big enough to get samples. Luckily, it was. After a 48 hour long flight home to the West Coast in the United States, they found that there was indeed a microbial ecosystem living in Lake Williams. John Priscu reported that these micro-organisms don’t need light to survive and that they have a good growth rate. He also reported that there are about 1000 of the micro-organisms per milliliter of water.
Investigating the newly-found life in Antarctica is important because scientists believe that this new life will give them clues to what biology of extraterrestrial life might be like in space, such as Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa is thought to have a large sub-ocean where life could exist. It is also important because it could change the view of the continent.
Some objects scientists use to explore the Antarctic are remote controlled robots, snow mobiles, pickaxes, motorized drills, and cameras. The use remote controlled robots to explore under ground lakes, and when it is a blizzard outside, they can make the robot go outside to explore instead of exploring outside themselves. They use snowmobiles to ride over the snow and ice. This is a more efficient way because the scientists can then have more time exploring what they need to explore. They use hand pick axes and motorized drills to dig into the ground or ice wall so they can find what they need—like how John Priscu and his team drilled a hole into the ice to explore the lake. They use cameras to take pictures and videos of what they are exploring so they can study it later. For example, if the object they need is to heavy or big, they can take pictures and videos and take that to the lab to examine.
Some things you need to survive Antarctica are: Extra layers of clothing, goggles, thick boots, a hat and scarf, and water proof gloves. You need extra layers to keep warm because it is usually always –30 degrees Celsius and windy. The goggles are to protect your eyes from the snow blown by the wind. You need thick boots and water-proof gloves to keep your hands and feet warm. You also need a hat and scarf to keep your head and neck warm.
On December 1st 1959, twelve countries signed a treaty to protect the Antarctic land and animals so scientists can study it. The treaty was official on June 23rd 1961. The first twelve countries to sign it was: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chili, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, The Soviet Union, The United Kingdom, and The United States. Canada joined the treaty along with a few other countries a few years later though.
Scientists in Antarctica are already starting to explore Antarctica more responsibly. Their research stations are becoming more environmentally friendly by using solar panels and recycling. Also, Scientists and tourists aren’t allowed to throw anything away. They have to bring everything they have or use with them. This is because the scientists don’t want the ground polluted or full of rubbish. They need the land to research it.
“Antarctica” The History of the Antarctic Treaty April 16th 2013