That little red dot in the bottom right hand corner? That’s a hut.
Antarctica dwarfs all human activity. Even a Frank Lloyd Wright, in place of that little red shack, doesn’t stand a chance against these towers of ice and snow. And this might be the reason why marine biologists, naturalists, geologists, penguin researchers and explorers love Antarctica more than Heidi Montag loves plastic surgery.
December 22, 2006: The greatest igneous rock your 7th grade science teacher never showed you is actually a landmass, and a geologist's dream.
Our expedition offered a little of everything. Dennis, a marine biologist, reported his findings in videos and photos every day after scuba diving to the bottom of the ocean. Jason Kelley, a geologist and naturalist, explained how the results of volcanic activity can be seen most clearly in Antarctica, where land is relatively unchanged since its formation because of a lack of vegetation.
Mike Polito, one of the many penguin researchers and a grad student at the time, taught me how to count penguins (with a counter) and use the results to track each species’ migration patterns.
Sometimes counting penguins is hard…
…and sometimes it’s too easy.
On the other end of the spectrum is Soames Summerhays, a National Geographic IMAX documentary filmmaker, who was filming a documentary on the continent and its wildlife. (As far as I am aware, it has not yet been released.) The two of us co-wrote a daily expedition report (DER) for the National Geographic ship logs about our day in Brown Bluff.
Research bases became a way for countries to lay claim over different areas of Antarctica in the 1800s and 1900s. Chile, Argentina and Great Britain fought for over a century over borders in Patagonia and on the continent, and all still lay claim to overlapping territories. But who’s counting now, when neither Chile nor Argentina have active research bases in Antarctica?
International graffiti on old silos near the 1920's-era Chilean base
As there is no one able to haul off huge metal silos (not to mention nowhere to recycle them), this abandoned 1920’s-era Chilean research station is left to rust and wear in the elements.
An abandoned boat in the volcanic crater
This once-thriving Chilean base sits in the bed of a volcanic crater. The choice was ideal because the sea is calm, the rocks break the wind, and icebergs and debris don’t generally make it that far.
The Chileans and Argentinians don’t have research bases, but the British do! Port Lockroy is an active British research station on an island in the Antarctic Peninsula, and it’s the only active base left on the continent.
Researchers bunk in this room at Port Lockroy.
The base has been declared a historical monument and is funded entirely by people like me who bought dozens of penguin keychains and Antarctica postcards in the gift shop. It’s run by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, a charity set up in 1993 to restore the station’s buildings and preserve human history in the Antarctic.
Beware the strong winds! (They blew a little kid right off this entrance ramp to Port Lockroy and into a patch of nesting penguins to left, below the frame. Oops.)
For more of what’s going on now at Port Lockroy, check out the UKAHT’s Port Lockroy Diaries, written by researchers and logged on the site as far back as 2003. Read the most recent Port Lockroy entry to find out how researchers prep for four months at the south pole. Now how do we get jobs on that base…
–Tara for TKGO