Shackleton Centenary Expedition

South Pole diary March 16 2008

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We found this blog on the Economist's website really interesting. Here you can find out more about "house-mousing" and the sheer volume of clothing one man needs to wear down at the South Pole (polypropylene long underwear, fleece, heavy duty overals, another fleece, bootliners, boots, glove liners, wool mittens, facemask, goggles, hat, and the obligatory US Antarctic Programme down coat).

The journalist notes that "With winds that can exceed 300 kilometres per hour and average winter temperatures of -40 °C, Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, driest, and highest continent on Earth. At 14 million square kilometres, its landmass is bigger than the United States, though 98% of it is covered by a thick blanket of ice. This ice sheet comprises roughly 90% of the world's ice, locking up 70% of the planet's fresh water, and in some places is half a kilometre thick. Antarctica is also the emptiest continent. Just 4,000 people work there in the summer, and only 1,000 stay through the long, dark winter."

The journalist himself is stationed at the Scott Amundsen South Pole station with a selection of people looking at astrophysics, seismology and atmospheric sciences - it was at the South Pole for example that Charles Keeling in 1957 found 315 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a year later he started his continuous observations in Hawaii that helped to show the continuous rise in greenhouse gasses that we have helped to create.

I'm sure that Professor Drewry the Vice Chancellor at Hull University, a key supporter of the Shackleton Centenary Expedition and the Shackleton Foundation, and the brains behind the research that we will conduct, would agree with the following sentiment: "Coming to the farthest reaches of the Earth helps scientists explore the farthest reaches of the universe."

This is why as Richard Nixon reaffirmed in 1970, Antarctica remains "the only continent where science serves as the principal expression of national policy and interest".

Click here for the Economist blog.

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