Global environmental challenges
GPS markers usually pinpoint a spot on the earth’s surface to help everything from map-making to navigation.
This one (left) spectacularly didn’t.
In fact, it wandered hundreds of miles (km) this year on an iceberg, blown by winds or carried by ocean currents in huge pirouettes off the coast of Antarctica.
When glaciologist David Vaughan (above) of the British Antarctic Survey stuck the pole holding the GPS (global positioning system) tracking device into the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica in January, the ice felt solid as rock.
Stuart McDill of Reuters TV and I had landed with him in a small plane mounted with skis on a 40-km-long floating ice bridge which had been in place probably for thousands and thousands of years. But it was weakening and about to snap in what Vaughan said was a sign of global warming.
It’s not often you go to a part of the world that disappears from the map a few weeks later.
Luckily we weren’t on the Wilkins Ice Shelf (above) in Antarctica on April 4, when an ice bridge that may be holding ice the size of Jamaica in place shattered into dozens of giant pieces (story here).
Meteorologist Tamsin Gray releases a weather balloon at the British Rothera research station on the Antarctic Peninsula to help record temperature and other data from the freezing air. Apart from helping predict the weather, the balloons are also giving scientists clues to global warming.
As you can see, it starts off about 2 metres across but how big it is when it reaches about 25 km above the ground?
As a view out of your home it’s hard to match — a constantly changing vista of icebergs just outside the British Antarctic Survey’s Rothera research station.
Every day the winds and tides on the Antarctic Peninsula shift them around — some break up abruptly with a loud splash while many simply slowly grind into ice cubes against the shore and disappear. I’ve tried to take a picture every day from the main balcony here (there’s a metal mast on the right hand side of each photo).
from Blogs Dashboard:
For anyone who thinks (like I did) that Antarctica is a bone-chilling freezer lashed by constant blizzards, a visit to the Antarctic Peninsula is a surprise.
As you can see from the picture, you can even play soccer at the British Rothera research station -- Stuart Mc Dill of Reuters TV (a skilled left winger) and I (unskilled) joined in a game last night and I have the grazes to prove it. Our team managed to win, 4-2, on the gravel pitch outside the plane hangar -- meteorologist Ali Price brilliantly knocked in three, even though he was wearing a pair of clunking hiking boots.
On a British Antarctic research station, engineer Andy Binney (pictured above at work) and plumber Adam Gerrard have what must be one of the shortest commutes in the world – 10 cm.
Here is a picture of Andy at work — installing boilers that will be partly powered by solar energy at the Rothera research station in Antarctica — and pointing to the wall behind which he sleeps. For a story about Antarctica shifting to renewable energies, click here.
You have to feel sorry for Australian aviator George Hubert Wilkins, one of the pioneers of flying in Antarctica who lived from 1888 to 1958 – and whose name is commemorated in an Antarctic Ice Shelf that is about to vanish into the ocean.
We landed near the narrowest point of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in a plane with a group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey – who reckoned it was the first time anyone had visited within tens of kilometres (miles).
This won’t hurt, I promise….
Training for a couple of weeks’ stay in a British Antarctic Survey research base on the Antarctic Peninsula, Reuters Television reporter Stuart McDill and I have learnt emergency first aid ranging from how to wield a scalpel to ways to bind up a person’s neck injured in a plane crash.
We’ve also learnt the basics of how to sew up wounds, insert tubes into people who cannot breathe and even get the air out of a punctured lung — jabbing in a giant needle between the ribs just below the collar bone to release the pressure.
Even veteran Antarctic visitors say there’s something special every time they see the continent — after all, Antarctica was only first spotted in 1820 — Fabian von Bellingshausen, a Estonian who was a captain in the Russian navy, usually gets the credit.
Ice getting bigger hardly sounds like a sign of global warming but that’s apparently what is happening in the seas around Antarctica.
Leading climate scientists say that a tiny trend towards bigger ice in winter floating on the oceans around the frozen continent since the late 1970s — the maximum extent is around now, in September — is consistent with models of climate change that predict harsher winds and less warmer water at the surface.