In 1928, Richard Byrd began his first of three expeditions to Antarctica. It took until November 28, 1929 before the first flight passed over the South Pole and back in a flight that took nearly 19 hours. He was the first American to explore the region since 1840, when Charles Wilkes traveled there. Byrd's success renewed interest in uncovering the mysteries of the South Pole.
The Byrd expedition ushered in a new age of exploration, as it was the first to use an airplane, aerial camera, snowmobile, and multiple communication devices. During his flights in three different planes (Ford monoplane, Fokker Universal and a Fairchild monoplane), Byrd completed ground surveys of the area with a hand-held camera.
Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, driest continent on Earth. Approximately 98% of it is covered in one-mile thick ice, though it only receives eight inches of precipitation each year (average). The average temperate at the South Pole is -50° C, and the coldest recorded temperature on the planet was there, at -89.2° C.
The continent may be icy and desolate, but it is not without life! Several species of fungi, algae, and bacteria call Antarctica their home, along with a species of plants known as bryophytes. Mites, lice, and nematodes, as well as krill, penguins, whales, seals, and squids, also call this region their home for at least part of the year. Today approximately 5,000 people call Antarctica their home. These are researchers that live in scientific research stations on the continent. They primarily research geology and climate change.
- An Adventure of a Different Nature (DVD - free w/ Prime)
- Printable Map & Very cool old world map
- Antarctica Real-Time Webcams
- Creative Writing Prompts
- Science Adventures in Antarctica (free board game)
- You Wouldn't Want to be a Polar Explorer! (online game)
- Climate Change & How it Affects Antarctica (entire website dedicated to this)
- Science Experiment (to study blubber) :
- Prepare a large bucket of ice water.
- Put a rubber glove on each hand. Coat only one of the gloves with a layer of vegetable shortening. Put gloved hands into sandwich bags.
- Place bagged hands into ice water. Which one is able to withstand the cold longer?
Think About It...
- Why would an Antarctic team include a dermatologist, a marine scientist, a radio operator, a helicopter pilot, an astronomer, and a mechanic?
- What would your daily life be like if you lived in Antarctica? What activities would you do? What would you eat? Would you enjoy living there?
- Scientists generally say that if anything is going to happen to the world's climate, it will happen to Antarctica first. What are scientists currently learning from their research in the region? What lessons can we take and apply from this research?
- Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
- Antarctic Circle
- Antarctic Ocean
- geographic South Pole
- Indian Ocean
- McMurdo Station
- Mount Erebus
- Palmer Station
- Ross Ice Shelf
- South Pacific Ocean
- Weddell Sea
- Greater Antarctica
- Ice Shelf
- Lake Vostok
- Lesser Antarctica
- Seas of Antarctica
- Subglacial Lakes of Antarctica
- Transantarctic Mountains
- Which countries have staked claims on Antarctica? Label any research bases.