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Entries in Antarctica (8)

Thursday
Oct112012

Australian to Retrace Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic Journey

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ernest Shackleton ought to have died on the Antarctic ice.  Instead, he is a hero, the leader who saved his men on one of the most horrific voyages of exploration of the 20th century.

In 1914, Shackleton set out from England to cross Antarctica on foot.  The Norwegian Roald Amundsen had already been first to the South Pole, so Shackleton and his crew of 27 men planned to outdo him.  But their ship, HMS Endurance, became trapped and was crushed in the polar ice.

After 10 months stranded in the cold, with supplies running low and no hope of rescue, Shackleton decided to row to the nearest inhabited island with five of his strongest men -- 800 miles across the Southern Ocean in an open lifeboat.  Somehow, they made it, and sent help for the others.  It took two years in all to get back home to England, but incredibly, nobody died.

Now, a century later, an Australian adventurer named Tim Jarvis is setting out to re-create Shackleton's struggle.  He and his team will skip the shipwreck part, and they won't leave anyone stranded off the Antarctic coast, but they will row from there to South Georgia Island, a windswept piece of land off the tip of South America.

"I'd be worried if I weren't scared," said Jarvis in an interview with ABC News.  

An environmental consultant when he's not off on an expedition, Jarvis has already made expeditions to both poles.  He and his comrades plan to trace Shackleton's voyage in a 22-foot wooden boat almost identical to the one the crew of the Endurance used.

Jarvis, 46, says they will wear the same seal skin parkas the British had back then, and live off the same diet of biscuits and pemmican (which was mostly made of lard).  A modern sailing ship, the Pelican, will be there if they need rescue, but mostly it will keep its distance.

"No one wants to do this any differently than Shackleton," said Jarvis.  "For people like me who do this sort of stuff, it's absolutely crucial to do it the way he did it.  Otherwise there's no point."

The reward?  Jarvis says there is not a lot of money to be made from putting yourself at risk near the bottom of the world.  They will shoot a documentary along the way and sell cabins on the Pelican, and Jarvis says he hopes the expedition will give him an opportunity to speak for action against climate change, which scientists say is mostly showing itself so far in the world's polar regions.  But mostly, if they succeed, Jarvis says they'll come away with the satisfaction of having lived intensely.

The plan is for Jarvis and his comrades to set out in the Pelican from Punta Arenas, Chile, at the southern tip of South America, in January -- early summer in the Southern Hemisphere.  They will sail to Elephant Island, the spit of land off the Antarctic coast where most of Shackleton's crew were stranded, and then launch their lifeboat.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug092012

Patient Rescued from Antarctic Research Station

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Australian medical team has arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, after departing the U.S. McMurdo Station in Antarctica where it rescued a U.S. expedition member who suffered a medical emergency.

The patient, who for privacy issues has not been identified, landed Thursday morning in New Zealand.  The patient was to be transported to a local hospital there, according to a spokesman from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Australian Antarctic Division was asked to assist in the rescue and provided its A319 Airbus and a medical team to help, the Australian government division said in a statement.

The rescue team had been waiting for a break in the weather to make the risky trip to the Antarctica research station.  The team's plane left Christchurch Wednesday evening en route to McMurdo Station, according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The NSF coordinated the operation, but remained mum on most of the details.

NSF spokeswoman Debbie Wing told ABC News that privacy issues prevent the foundation from revealing the patient's name, gender, age or illness.

"The patient's condition may require treatment beyond what can be provided at the station's medical facility," the NSF said in statement Wednesday.

The NSF said the American patient is in stable condition, but the McMurdo medical facility is "equivalent to an urgent-care center in the U.S., and is not equipped for the type of procedure being contemplated."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Antarctic Medical Rescue Mission Poised for Break in Weather

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Australian medical team is poised to dash into Antarctica to help rescue an expeditioner from the United States' McMurdo Research Station who is suffering a medical emergency.

The rescue team is looking for a break in the harsh Antarctic weather.

The Australian Antarctic Division was asked to assist in the rescue and is providing its A319 Airbus and a medical team to help, the Australian government division said in a statement.

The U.S.'s National Science Foundation (NSF) is coordinating the operation, but remaining mum on most of the details.

NSF spokeswoman Debbie Wing told ABC News that privacy issues prevent the foundation from revealing the patient's name, gender, age or illness. Wing could only say that the patient is in "stable condition" and receiving treatment at the base.

Wing could not confirm that the patient is American, bus she is assuming that he or she is American.

The Australian team is positioned in Christchurch, New Zealand, and is waiting for weather and light conditions to allow them to make the dangerous trip to the bottom of the world.

Antarctica is in the midst of its six months of winter when it is dark 24 hours a day, making the flight very risky. Wing predicted that the rescue flight will not happen until the end of this week, weather conditions permitting.

A live webcam positioned at McMurdo showed that it was 30 degrees below zero with the wind chill today. McMurdo is about 2,415 miles south of Christchurch and about 850 miles north of the South Pole.

"All nations work together very cooperatively in these sorts of emergency situations in Antarctica to provide support when and as required," Australian Antarctic Division Director Dr. Tony Fleming said in a statement.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Antarctic Medical Rescue Mission Underway

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Australian medical team is attempting to make its way to Antarctica to help rescue an expedition member from the United States' McMurdo Research Station who is suffering a medical emergency.

The Australian Antarctic Division was asked to assist in the rescue and is providing its A319 Airbus and a medical team to help, the Australian government division said in a statement.

The rescue team had been waiting for a break in the harsh Antarctic weather to make the risky trip. The team's plane left Christchurch, New Zealand this evening and is on its way to McMurdo Station, according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The U.S.'s National Science Foundation (NSF) is coordinating the operation, but remaining mum on most of the details.

NSF spokeswoman Debbie Wing told ABC News that privacy issues prevent the foundation from revealing the patient's name, gender, age or illness.

"The patient's condition may require treatment beyond what can be provided at the station's medical facility," the NSF said in statement.

The NSF said the patient is currently in stable condition, but the McMurdo medical facility is, "equivalent to an urgent-care center in the U.S., and is not equipped for the type of procedure being contemplated."

Wing could not confirm that the patient is American, but said she is assuming that he or she is American.

The Australian team was positioned in Christchurch, New Zealand, and had been waiting for weather and lighting conditions to allow them to make the dangerous trip to the bottom of the world.

Antarctica is in the middle of its six-month winter. It is now dark at McMurdo except for a brief period of twilight at midday, making the flight very risky. Wing predicted that the rescue flight will not happen until the end of this week, weather conditions permitting.

A live webcam positioned at McMurdo showed that it was 30 degrees below zero Wednesday. McMurdo is about 2,415 miles south of Christchurch and about 850 miles from the South Pole.

"All nations work together very cooperatively in these sorts of emergency situations in Antarctica to provide support when and as required," Australian Antarctic Division Director Dr. Tony Fleming said in a statement.

This risky rescue will not be the first of its kind.

In October 2011, an American researcher who suffered from a suspected stroke was rescued from the pole by the U.S. Air Force. And in two separate incidents in 2010, New Zealand helped two Americans get out of McMurdo due to illnesses.

The most famous rescue was of Dr. Jerri Nielsen in 1999. Nielsen, the doctor at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station, diagnosed herself as having breast cancer after she found a lump. She treated herself with chemotherapy agents delivered by parachute from the U.S. Air Force until she was rescued. She even performed her own biopsy procedure.

After her rescue, she was treated and her cancer went into remission, but it returned in 2005. Nielsen died in 2009 at the age of 57.

Copyright 2012 ABC News

Wednesday
Jun202012

Emperor Penguins Threatened By Shrinking Kingdom

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers studying the effects of climate change in Antarctica say shrinking sea ice means bad news for emperor penguins: an 81 percent reduction in the number of breeding pairs by 2100.

“We conclude that climate change is a significant risk for the emperor penguin,” says the study, published this week in the journal Global Change Biology.

Scientists caution, however, that the study contains large uncertainties because climate model forecasts disagree on exactly how the ice will respond to a warming world.

The study projects the number of emperor penguin breeding pairs in a colony at Terre Adélie will drop from roughly 3,000 to as few as 500 by the turn of the century. But researchers point out that if the ice does shrink at their current home, the penguins may simply move to regions with more favorable sea ice conditions.

Emperor penguins are the largest of the species and breed and raise their young almost exclusively on the ice, biologists say.

“If the sea ice breaks up too early, this will cause massive breeding failures because the chicks will not yet have the waterproof plumage that will allow them to swim in the water,” said study co-author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

“If they happen to be in the water, they will die,” Jenouvrier said.

Decreasing amounts of sea ice may also have a ripple effect on the penguin’s food supply, including fish, shrimp and krill.

The study’s authors relied on simulations from 20 computer climate models that assume moderate growth in greenhouse gas emissions.

A vast majority of climate scientists believe humans have been steadily warming the atmosphere and oceans since the industrial revolution, leading to “widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”

“People say the temperature may increase by two degrees, so what?’” Jenouvrier told ABC News. “But changes that may seem small to humans are not small to species, and may affect the entire ecosystem.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

Emperor Penguin Count 600K in Antarctica, Satellite Images Reveal

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANTARCTICA) -- There are a lot more black and white birds wobbling around in Antarctica than some might have thought, new satellite data reveals.

With the use of Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite images, scientists have been able to determine that there are close to 600,000 Emperor Penguins in the region -- it was previously estimated that there were 270,000 -- 350,000 birds. The scientists analyzed 44 emperor penguin colonies around Antarctica.

The satellite images in conjunction with ground counts allowed the scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, University of Minnesota, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Australian Antarctic Division to differentiate between the animals, ice, shadow, and penguin poop (guano). According to the agencies, this is the “first compressive census of a species taken from space.”

Previously, ecologists weren’t able to gauge the environmental impact on the penguin population as accurately because of cold weather in the region; the new method has little environmental impact, is cost-effective, and accurate.

However, the new research doesn’t shed light just yet on how climate change is impacting the birds. “This research really just sets a benchmark for actually knowing how many there are. Going forward, we can see how the populations are trending through time,” Michelle A. LaRue, a scientist from the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota, told ABC News.

LaRue added that “we do know that prior to this we lost one colony to sea ice loss.”

As you can see from the image above, the black and white color of the penguins stands out against the snow in these images and the colonies of them are visible.

Unfortunately, the satellite shots aren’t very close up of the penguins, but to check out some real-life penguins right now you can always tune into SeaWorld’s Penguin cam or look at the picture below.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb032012

18-Mile Crack Seen by NASA in Antarctic Glacier

NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS; U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team(GREENBELT, Md.) -- Antarctica is so vast that pictures give you no sense of scale.  A pencil-thin line seen across a satellite image of Pine Island Glacier is actually more than 18 miles long, 800 feet across in places, and 180 feet deep.

And it’s growing. In the next few months, scientists expect the glacier to create an iceberg about 350 square miles in area. It will probably float northward, melting as it goes.

“Pine Island Glacier is losing ice very quickly, about six meters per year,” said Michael Studinger of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, which sent an expedition called Operation IceBridge to Antarctica in October in an old DC-8 jetliner, modified for scientific operations. It spotted the break in the ice, and earth-observing satellites have been watching it since.

“These things happen on a semi-regular basis in both the Arctic and Antarctic, but it’s still a fairly large event,” said John Sonntag, Instrument Team Lead for Operation IceBridge, in a video recorded on the plane. “So we wanted to make sure we captured as much of that process as we could."

“A lot of times when you’re in science, you don’t get to capture the big stories as they happen, because you’re not there at the right place at the right time,” he said, “but this time we were.”

To scientists, this is more than a vast spectacle. Both polar caps are losing ice, and researchers studying the world’s climate say they want to understand the process.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan232012

Woman Is First Person to Cross Antarctica Solo on Skis

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HERCULES INLET, Antarctica) -- Powered by grit and determination, Felicity Aston became the first person to ski solo across Antarctica on Monday.

Aston finished the 59-day trip almost exactly a century after a Roald Amundsen first reached the South Pole in 1911. The 33-year-old Aston crossed 1,084 miles as she traveled from the Ross Ice shelf to Hercules Inlet, where a plane was to pick her up Monday.

Aston, a freelance travel writer, meteorlogoist and explorer, faced temperatures that averaged -25 degrees as she pulled two sleds across the ice and thick snow on her nearly two-month trip.

While early Antarctic explorers were cut off from the outside world, Aston’s access to a satellite phone meant that friends and family could follow her online as she regularly tweeted and made almost daily podcasts about her journey. An interactive map showed Aston’s progress in real time.  And while she was skiing, Aston listened to bands such as Bon Iver, Juinp and Other Lives.

She laughed at some of the comforts she had to give up. On New Year’s Eve she noted that there would be no champagne.

“No booze with me to toast the new year but treating myself to spoonfulls of the peanut butter I was given at Pole,” Aston tweeted as the new year approached.

In Aston’s last podcast, recorded after she reached Hercules Inlet, the clearly emotional traveler reflected on finishing the trip. “I seem to have got here in a rush or something and I don’t really feel prepared for it,” said Aston. “It feels amazing to be finished and yes overwhelmingly sad that it’s over at the same time.”

However, before Aston could disparage too much, she was reminded of what she would get to leave behind.

“Just in case I was in danger of feeling sentimental, a violent wind has appeared from nowhere and is beating the tent like the bad old days,” tweeted Aston Sunday night.

Weather permitting, Aston planned to return home Monday where she said she was looking forward to some “red wine and a hot shower.”

In her latest tweet Aston admits she is sad to leave the icy continent. "The plane is on its way so these are my last moments alone in Antarctica. I feel both excited and extremely sad,” said Aston.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio