Origins ANTARCTICA, Scientific Journeys from McMurdo to the Pole
Ideas Tools Place Live Field Notes

In Antarctica, protecting yourself from the cold can be a matter of life and death. But the human body isn't the only thing at risk; tools and equipment can also easily malfunction in Antarctica's extreme conditions. In an environment where metal hammerheads have been known to shatter from the cold, where lubricants can easily ice over and bind up, and where computer screens can literally freeze, researchers have to equip themselves with a range of special gear, and constantly be on the lookout for unexpected complications.

With no place to get supplies once they get there, Antarctic travelers have to make sure to bring everything they will need with them, down to the last battery and tube of toothpaste. They also need to be careful not to leave any of it behind. While Antarctica is still one of the least-impacted places on Earth, decades of human visitation have taken their toll on its environment. To cut back on pollution, more and more research stations are using solar power, recycling, and, like low-impact campers, packing out whatever they bring in.

Whether they are drilling for ice cores at the South Pole or observing penguins on the coast, scientists have to develop innovative techniques to work here, from covering their cameras in mitten-like cases that keep them from freezing, to using remote-controlled robots to explore underground lakes. As our expedition progresses, the Exploratorium team will face its own technical challenges: keeping in contact with visitors and Web audiences while in one of the most remote places on earth.

Follow these links as our team keeps you updated on the tools Antarctic scientists use to do their work—and simply to survive.

AMANDA: the search for high-energy neutrinos nearly two miles under the ice

Ice Cores: Antarctic glaciers can tell us about the Earth's atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Five senses of Antarctica - Noel and Paul describe how scientists use the basic see, hear, taste, touch and smell as tools in their research.

Climbing Erebus - Knowing how to transport the machines is as important in Antarctica as knowing how to use them.

   
   
  Inside Shackleton's hut
  Photo: John Jacobsen
  Installing AMANDA in the ice.
   
ice cores
  Photo: MSF
  Drilling ice cores.
   


 

 

Origins Exploratorium ANTARCTICA

 

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