Life And Science In Antarctica

A dazzling summer December day in Antarctica may see temperatures of as high as minus 25. However, the weather can be punctuated by gale-force winds with an eyelid-freezing wind chill factor that howl over a glacier that is two miles deep and spreads as far as the eye can see in all directions. Antarctica is one of the most harshest places to live on our Earth.

The United States maintains a permanent station at the South Pole, and it is probably the most critical science station in the world and also the most isolated. There was a time when only specified workers and analysts were permitted at the Pole. This is no longer the case, however, as there are flights chartered by affluent adventure seekers and tourists that have begun to visit this extreme location.

All that can really be seen is white. Within a thousand miles of the Pole there is not even a penguin. But arriving at The Pole continues to be the rarest of experiences in our world of been there, done that.

Since the South Pole has been seen as an important base for scientific discovery, those who work there likely scoff at the notion of selling out Antarctica, which could get in their way. But is doesn’t stop visitors, as the do come frequently during research season. There isn’t much anyone can do to stop people from coming.

No one nation possesses Antarctica, though forty-three nations have executed treaties to protect and examine the icebound landmass which is the size of the U.S. and Mexico together. The U.S. staffs three large stations throughout the year, even during the Pole’s winter, which lasts for eight months without a ray of sunlight. No matter how unwanted visitors are, the unwritten code of the Pole encourages residents and scientists to welcome anyone who makes it as far as 90 degrees south of latitude, even if they are not invited.

Due to the lack of knowledge about this land and the fact that it stands at 10,000 feet above sea level, visitation by untrained people is not promoted. Typically, when someone does visit that is not educated they will be cold, dehydrated, and have altitude sickness.

Originally, in 1975, the dome slept thirty-three men. Now the two hundred men and women at the Pole crowd into every bed that is available. Prefabricated bunkhouses made of plywood, canvas and plastic can now be seen stretching down the glacier and carry the nickname of Summer Camp.

As in many camps, Summer Camp has access to an unlimited supply of fresh water. However, it takes melting ice with $ 12 per gallon fuel to get it. This means that showers, laundry, and flush toilets are few and far between. The long trek to a communal bathroom can be a perilous and bone-chilling experience even underneath the blazing sun at 3:00 AM.

The first women who came to Antarctica had to have military escorts. Today, however, women comprise fully one-third of the summer crew and are treated as equals. And in return, the Pole extracts its due from all equally.

Research shows that workers who work in that type of bitter cold environment will take up to 3 times as long to get their work done. The theorize this happens because the human brain has issues trying to produce the right types of chemicals to get even the simplest task done in such extreme cold. The conditions do not get any better in the winter.

During the middle of February, the final plane takes off for the north. That last airplane leaves a group of 28 workers who will live at The Pole for the six months that follow. It will be completely dark until the spring hits in October. Then, the sun will shine and those willing to work in the Antarctic return by plane again.

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