Monday, December 3

We Were There with Byrd at the South Pole

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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.

Make & Do

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?
Identify / Define
  • bryophytes
  • nematodes
  • 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.


  1. Replies
    1. LOL Why thank you! :)

    2. Thanks for the giveaway. I found out about you from Sarah Sundin. I will pass along the site to my daughter and daughter in law. I homeschooled all four of my kids. The youngest is 27. Wish you were around a long time ago! Great stuff!

    3. :) Such kind words! I am loving homeschooling my kids, and wish they'd stay little forever...but maybe someday they'll allow me the privilege of helping to teach their own children!

  2. I don't know that I have read anything about the South Pole explorations. I might need to do that soon. Another nice study.

  3. Great post! We have done the blubber experiment and it was a lot of fun. I'll have to share some of those links with my son.

  4. This fits in perfectly with my post about Shackleton - too funny that we both shared posts about the South Pole

    1. That is funny! Great minds think alike. :)