Environment Forum

In Antarctic soccer: Britain 2, United States 0

 In a rare Antarctic soccer ‘international’, staff at a British base on the Antarctic Peninsula beat the crew of a visiting U.S. research vessel 2-0 on Saturday on a pitch with a view out over mountains and icebergs.

About 30 of us watched from the sidelines of the pitch (actually, the area in front of the aircraft hangar) at the Rothera research station on the Antarctic Peninsula with the occasional snow flurry in temperatures just below freezing. The cheerleaders tried to keep warm by leaping around  (below).  

 Carpenter Chris Hobson (above, in blue) was the hero for Rothera, scoring both goals in the first half — the first from the rebound after a disputed penalty awarded for handball. The second after a goalmouth scramble.

He’s now known as “Cristiano”.

The Americans from the Laurence M. Gould vessel, on a research cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula, had a few good chances but never managed to score. A few weeks at sea may have upset their balance.

No one took it too seriously (there wasn’t even a referee) or tackled too hard — (it’s easy to get hurt falling over on the gravel; I know, from a training match earlier this week).

Cracking views of Antarctic icebergs

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).

Walking along the shore here you can hear a bubbling as air in the ice melts out into the water. The old ice is the clearest — good for putting in cold drinks. Some form gravity-defying shapes such as arches or big holes — one in the bay a few days ago looked like a giant catamaran.

On Antarctic safaris, remember to bring a microscope

Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.

If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.

Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (that’s his thumb), says that such tiny creatures evolved in Antarctica over tens of millions of years — they can freeze their bodies in winter in an extreme form of hibernation.

Landing in Antarctica — first icebergs

A buzz of excitement went around the plane (left) when a scientist spotted the first mountains of Antarctica through the window on a flight from the southern tip of Chile.

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.

Stuart Mc Dill of Reuters Television and I flew in with about a dozen scientists and other staff to the Rothera Base, run by the British Antarctic Survey, on the Antarctic Peninsula in a tiny Dash-7 plane from the southern tip of Chile.