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).
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).