What’s almost as intriguing as the journey itself though is the fact that people following the latter day team’s progress across the Antarctic ice are able to read and comment on their exploits, even though they may be up to half a world away, surely something Scott and his contemporaries could never have envisaged.
While some especially adventurous travellers may see Antarctica as a so-called extreme tourism destination, it is certainly no place for the faint of heart:
While I’m personally not prone to anxious thinking, conditions here breed morbid fantasies: ominous fog banks, white-capped waves, freezing, face-shredding winds capable of knocking you off your feet with no warning. In weather like that, your access to medical treatment is limited and beyond your control—and when something like a broken leg could be deadly, thoughts of injury (and improvised surgeries inside a storm-tossed boat) are never far from your mind.
NASA’s IceBridge Mission has been using a number of technologies to create a map of Antarctica’s bedrock, a process that if nothing else, gives those of us not so up on matters geology an idea what the landmass looks like without its ice and snow cover.
Stanford University PhD student Cassandra Brooks recently spent two months sailing through Antarctica’s Ross Sea aboard an ice-breaker. Rarely a dull moment by the looks of it, including even the occasions the vessel was temporarily trapped by the sea ice.
The premise of Ben Affleck’s new thriller Argo (opening in Australian cinemas today, by the way) sees a would be Canadian film crew travel to Iran during the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis on the pretext of searching out locations for a science fiction movie they are (not) making.
In reality they are using the cover to smuggle six US diplomats – who managed to reach the Canadian ambassador’s residence in Tehran and go into hiding – out of the country.
Few of us are ever likely to visit Antarctica, so looking up Google Street View images may be the only way to experience the southern polar continent. If nothing else, Street View images are candid, thus offering an insight into the real Antarctica.
Wildlife watchers near Aurora Australis’ bridge first thought it was a relaxing seal but it was soon apparent it was rectangular in shape. How it got to such a prominent position, instead of just floating around, is anyone’s guess.
Oxygen rich Lake Vostok, which lies sealed some four thousand metres below Antarctica, and has been completely isolated from the rest of the world for the last 14 million years, stands to reveal much about life on Earth long before the first humans arrived, according to Russian scientists who are currently drilling towards it.
Conditions in the lake are also similar to those on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and should Lake Vostok contain any lifeforms, such as extremophiles, hardy organisms able to live in very harsh environments, their discovery may boost the likelihood that life exists elsewhere in the solar system.
Life in Lake Vostok would need adaptions to the oxygen-rich environment, which could include high concentrations of protective enzymes. The conditions in Lake Vostok are very similar to the conditions on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, so the new data could also strengthen the case for extraterrestrial life.