Spotting Antarctic mountains, 200 km away

January 16, 2009

This disc on a look-out point by a British Antarctic research station shows places more than 200 km (125 miles) away — and on a clear day you can see them.

The air in Antarctica is so clear, dry, cold and dust- and pollution-free that you can see mind-boggling distances. 

Jenny Island on the disc — part of a memorial for Kirsty Brown, a diver who died in a leopard seal attack in 2003 — is 21 km away and is in the centre-right on the picture below:

Cape Brown Alexander, just to the left of Jenny Island, is 203 km distant. You can’t see it with the resolution of the photo on the right and it’s hard to tell sometimes if that lump in the distance is an iceberg or land.

Mountains here look deceptively close — there are no roads, no buildings, no trees to give a sense of perspective.

“It’s like slicing the top off the Alps and putting them in the sea,” said Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), at the Rothera base.

Below is Athena Dinar, BAS spokeswoman, at the memorial, on a hillside about 50 metres above sea level just above Rothera:


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Actually, in Washington State in the US, I have often seen Mount Rainier from that distance. It is often obscured by haze, but we say Mt. Rainier is ‘out’ when we can see it from far away.

Posted by Tim Dunn | Report as abusive