Antarctic poetry


This video is called PENGUINS, the Antarctic Wildlife.

From Slate in the USA:

Antarctica’s Poet-in-Residence

What endures and what does not?

By Jynne Dilling Martin

Jan. 2 2014 1:51 PM

The National Science Foundation sent Jynne Dilling Martin to Antarctica this winter (the austral summer) as an artist-in-residence. Below are two poems she wrote from there.

“Am Going South, Amundsen”

An oil painting of a jaguar eating an emperor penguin
is the start of a daydream in the Royal Society library.

Nineteen ponies wedged in narrow wooden stalls
sail south; they will soon go blind from miles of radiant snow,

lap at volcanic ash for a last smack of salt, be shot
and fed to dogs. For now they sway this way, sway that.

The magnetic needle dips. Only afterwards we ask if it cost
too much. Will this species be here tomorrow or not?

says the scientist to her assembled team. The ponies eat oats
in silence, the instruments keep ticking, the icy water

washes on and off the deck. A bell abruptly rings a warning:
oxidative stress, methane concentrations, too much heat.

The dragonfish lays her pearlescent eggs beneath the ice
and for ten months stands guard. The sea-stars sway this way,

sway that. We all hope for the best. The adaptive might survive,
the needy will not. Then again, the adaptive likely won’t either.

Sorry we realized too late: we wipe reindeer hair from our eyes,
the glaciated passages too dazzling to quite see clearly.

Soon this ship will be crushed in a polar storm; below deck,
pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica are read aloud,

shredded and used to light pipes. A century later
the preservationist draining antique food tins

sneaks a taste of raspberry jam. That night he’ll dream
he digs out a tomb on a glacier filled with bay leaves

still fragrant and green. The emperor penguin egg
tucked warm in the explorer’s pocket is delivered intact

to the receptionist desk at the Royal Geographic Society;
the robbery victim nestles a stone between his feet

and rocks back and forth at the bottom of the world.
Enough seal blubber can keep a single lamp burning

for a thousand years; enough knowledge exists to fill
twenty thousand encyclopedia pages. Lost friends

return to us in dreams, but come morning we can’t recall
what they wanted. Snakes, Snell’s law, Snowblind

curl up into hazy tobacco smoke. The amphipods
in test tubes begin to faint from next century’s

simulated heat; falling leaves fill the air of our dreams.
The biologist drills a hole in the sea snail’s shell

and slides a miniature stethoscope inside, listens
for the heartbeat: it’s beating, still beating, still beating.

Read Jynne Dilling Martin’s dispatches from Antarctica on the gorgeous and bizarre life under the sea ice; adorable, googly-eyed penguins; and stunning and dangerous ice formations.

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Antarctic 100-year-old photo negatives discovery


This video about the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition is called Endurance, Shackleton and the Antarctic.

From Discovery News:

100-Year-Old Negatives Found in Antarctica: Photos

Dec 30, 2013 11:00 AM ET

Frozen Block

Antarctic Heritage Trust conservators recently made a stunning discovery: a box of 22 exposed but unprocessed negatives, frozen in a block of ice for nearly one hundred years.

The negatives were recovered from a corner of a supply hut that British explorer Robert Falcon Scott established to support his doomed expedition to the South Pole from 1910-1913. Scott and his men reached the South Pole but died on the trip home.

The hut was next used by the Ross Sea Party of Sir Ernest Shackleton‘s 1914-1917 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition after they were stranded on Ross Island when their ship, the Aurora, blew out to sea. This party is believed to have left behind the undeveloped negatives.

The cellulose nitrate negatives are seen here as they were found — frozen in ice.

Greenland ‘Grand Canyon’ discovery under ice


This video from the USA is called Greenland Rocks, for Geologists.

From Reuters:

Giant Canyon Found Entombed under Greenland Ice

A vast and previously unmapped gorge 800 meters (half a mile) deep has been found under ice in Greenland, comparable in size to parts of the Grand Canyon in the United States, scientists said.

By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle

OSLO – A vast and previously unmapped gorge 800 meters (half a mile) deep has been found under ice in Greenland, comparable in size to parts of the Grand Canyon in the United States, scientists said.

Other studies have also revealed a rift valley entombed in Antarctica‘s ice in 2012 that scientists said may be speeding the flow of ice towards the sea, and a jagged “ghost range” of mountains buried in Antarctica in 2009 similar to the Alps.

“It’s remarkable to find something like this when many people believe the surface of the Earth is so well mapped,” lead author Jonathan Bamber, of the University of Bristol in England, said of the canyon described in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

“On land, Google Street View has photographed just about every building in every major city,” he told Reuters of the study, using ice-penetrating radar and carried out with colleagues in Canada and Italy.

The canyon is 750 km (470 miles) long in central and north Greenland and comparable in scale to parts of the Grand Canyon that is twice as deep – 1.6 km – at its deepest, they wrote. The Greenland canyon is buried under about 2 km of ice.

About as long as the Rhone river in France and Switzerland, the ravine was probably cut by an ancient river that eroded rocks as it flowed north before temperatures cooled and ice blanketed Greenland 3.5 million years ago, they wrote.

The gorge probably still plays a role in draining some meltwater from beneath the ice sheet.

ICE FLOWS

The scientists used airborne data collected mainly by NASA and by scientists in Britain and Germany to piece together maps of the canyon. At some frequencies, ice is transparent to radio waves that bounce off the bedrock.

Bamber said the gorge would help scientists refine models of how Greenland’s ice sheet slowly flows downhill but was unlikely to affect understanding of how global warming is melting ice.

“I don’t think it’s particularly influential” in determining the rate of ice flow, echoed David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey. He said the canyon was so deep under the ice that it was unlikely to be affected by any warming trend for many decades.

Vaughan led a four-year international study called ice2sea, which said in May that world sea levels could rise by between 16.5 and 69 cm (6-27 inches) with moderate global warming by 2100, partly because of a thaw of Greenland and Antarctica.

He told Reuters a few blanks remain on the map, including two areas of east Antarctica that scientists jokingly dub the “Poles of Ignorance”.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

Antarctica’s First Whale Skeleton Discovered


This video from Antarctica is about a minke whale playing with a zodiac.

From ScienceDaily:

Antarctica’s First Whale Skeleton Found With Nine New Deep-Sea Species

Mar. 18, 2013 — Marine biologists have, for the first time, found a whale skeleton on the ocean floor near Antarctica, giving new insights into life in the sea depths. The discovery was made almost a mile below the surface in an undersea crater and includes the find of at least nine new species of deep-sea organisms thriving on the bones.

The research, involving the University of Southampton, Natural History Museum, British Antarctic Survey, National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Oxford University, is published today in Deep-Sea Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography.

The planet’s largest animals are also a part of the ecology of the very deep ocean, providing a rich habitat of food and shelter for deep sea animals for many years after their death,” says Diva Amon, lead author of the paper based at University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science (which is based at NOC) and the Natural History Museum. “Examining the remains of this southern Minke whale gives insight into how nutrients are recycled in the ocean, which may be a globally important process in our oceans.”

Worldwide, only six natural whale skeletons have ever been found on the seafloor. Scientists have previously studied whale carcasses, known as a ‘whale fall‘, by sinking bones and whole carcasses. Despite large populations of whales in the Antarctic, whale falls have not been studied in this region until now.

“At the moment, the only way to find a whale fall is to navigate right over one with an underwater vehicle,” says co-author Dr Jon Copley of University of Southampton Ocean and Earth Science. Exploring an undersea crater near the South Sandwich Islands gave scientists just that chance encounter. “We were just finishing a dive with the UK’s remotely operated vehicle, Isis, when we glimpsed a row of pale-coloured blocks in the distance, which turned out to be whale vertebrae on the seabed,” continues Dr Copley.

When a whale dies and sinks to the ocean floor, scavengers quickly strip its flesh. Over time, other organisms then colonise the skeleton and gradually use up its remaining nutrients. Bacteria break down the fats stored in whale bones, for example, and in turn provide food for other marine life. Other animals commonly known as zombie worms can also digest whale bone.

“One of the great remaining mysteries of deep ocean biology is how these tiny invertebrates can spread between the isolated habitats these whale carcasses provide on the seafloor,” says co-author Dr Adrian Glover at the Natural History Museum. ‘Our discovery fills important gaps in this knowledge.’

The team surveyed the whale skeleton using high-definition cameras to examine the deep-sea animals living on the bones and collected samples to analyse ashore. Researchers think that the skeleton may have been on the seafloor for several decades. Samples also revealed several new species of deep-sea creatures thriving on the whale’s remains, including a ‘bone-eating zombie worm‘ known as Osedax burrowing into the bones and a new species of isopod crustacean, similar to woodlice, crawling over the skeleton. There were also limpets identical to those living at nearby deep-sea volcanic vents.

New Species of Naked Bone-Eating Worms in Antarctica: here.

An American Shutdown Reaches the Earth’s End & damages years of work on Antartica, while ice melts evidence away: here.

It’s official: The coldest place on Earth is a high ridge on the East Antarctic Plateau: here.

Antarctic bacteria discovery


This video is called Living Bacteria Found Deep Under the Ice in Antarctica.

From New Scientist:

Mystery bug found in Antarctica’s Lake Vostok

There is something alive in Lake Vostok, deep beneath the East Antarctic ice sheet, and we don’t know what it is. Water samples from the lake contain a bacterium that does not seem to belong to any known bacterial groups – although whether it truly is a new form of life remains to be proven.

Russian scientists breached Lake Vostok in February 2012, after years of drilling. The lake lies beneath 3.5 kilometres of ice, and has been cut off from the rest of the world since Antarctica froze 14 million years ago.

The Russians’ borehole was filled with lubricating kerosene, which contains bacteria – causing concerns that the lake might be contaminated. But the project seems to have avoided this. When the drill hit the lake, it automatically withdrew in response to the pressure change. Lake water gushed into the borehole, pushing the kerosene up the hole before freezing.

Since last May, Sergey Bulat of the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia and colleagues have been studying the water that froze onto the drill bit. “The samples proved to be very dirty,” he says, with lots of kerosene. Preliminary genetic analyses reported last October found bacteria from the drilling fluid, not the lake.

Bulat has now gone back to the DNA samples. Comparing their DNA sequences to a database of known contaminants, he identified short fragments of DNA belonging to 19 different known bacterial species. “All of them proved to be contaminants, or bacteria from human skin,” says Bulat.

More unusual

A twentieth species is more unusual. The genetic samples show less than 86 per cent similarity to the known major groups of bacteria. That could mean it belongs to an entirely new division, says Bulat, although he concedes that it could just be a new species.

“This is encouraging, but we don’t really know much about it,” says David Pearce of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK. He says it would have been surprising if there hadn’t been life in Lake Vostok, as organisms manage to survive in all manner of extreme environments. More interesting, he says, is what the life in Vostok looks like, and how different it is to everything else on Earth.

Pearce has studied samples from Lake Hodgson, which lies beneath just a few metres of ice in west Antarctica. He says 25 per cent of the genetic sequences he has found do not match anything found in DNA databases. So on its own, having an unusual DNA sequence does not prove that the Vostok bacterium belongs to a new group. There’s a long list of systematic tests that will need to be carried out in order to prove that.

The results must also be independently replicated, says Martin Siegert of the University of Bristol, UK, who led an unsuccessful attempt to drill into another Antarctic lake – Ellsworth – last year.

Sediment life

If the bacterium does belong to a new group, it will quickly come under scrutiny. “The next question is, where does it come from?” says Siegert. Researchers think life is most likely in the sediments at the lake bottom, where there is food. But if Bulat’s bacterium came from the sediment in Lake Vostok, it must have been sucked up through 700 metres of lake water when the Russian drill head broke through the icy roof above Vostok.

“The only way to find out is to go into the lake itself and do direct sampling,” says Siegert. Robots could collect lake water and sediment.

American researchers recently drilled into Lake Whillans, a shallower subglacial lake that is connected to a subglacial network of lakes and rivers, and also found living microbes.