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Inside Antarctica: the continent whose fate will affect millions


From Financial Times: Antarctica is changing fast, including sections of the massive ice sheet that covers it. This holds so much water that if it ever melted completely, global sea levels would rise by nearly 60m. The race to understand Antarctica has become more urgent. Also watch, the documentary ‘The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning.’

Pilita Clark, Financial Times

Frithjof Kuepper is an amiable man. He giggles a lot. He likes to chat and he is generally polite at all times. But Kuepper, a marine biodiversity professor at the University of Aberdeen, is also one of a select breed of scientists who dive in the waters off Antarctica, the coldest, loneliest and most daunting continent on earth. That is where he was in January when he took out his laptop to type a plaintive message to fellow researchers in an irreverent Facebook group called “F**k the leopard seal”.

“The horror,” he wrote, “is back.” Kuepper was in Rothera, a station run by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research institute. Dozens of scientists flock there between October and March each year, when the continent’s violent weather eases. Kuepper had come to study things such as how seaweed survives in the dark for months on end under ice, a quest that could lead to better cold-water washing powder and other products with the potential to slash energy costs and carbon pollution.

His mere presence there was a small triumph. A scientist’s visit to Antarctica typically costs thousands of dollars and can take months of wrangling — with grant bodies for money, with university bosses for time off from teaching, and with spouses left back home at Christmas.

But more than two weeks after arriving at Rothera, Kuepper had failed to do a single dive. Bad weather delayed his flight from Chile to the station so much that he arrived on Christmas Day, a holiday. A diving officer injured an ankle jogging, stalling dive trips further.

Then, just as Kuepper was finally about to hit the water, a strap on his face mask broke and he had to abandon the dive. Then came the leopard seals.

Read full story with photographs on the Financial Times website


RELATED
One of the biggest icebergs in recorded history just broke loose from Antarctica

Chris Mooney, The Washington Post
The Washington Post reports: Scientists have announced that a much-anticipated break at the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica has occurred, unleashing a massive iceberg that is more than 2,200 square miles in area and weighs a trillion tons. Also, Nagraj Adve on why India must heed the cracking of this Haryana-sized Antarctic ice shelf.

Why India must heed the cracking of a Haryana-sized ice shelf in Antarctica
Nagraj Adve, The Wire
In West Antarctica, a huge ice shelf called Larsen C has developed a rift 175 kilometres long and half-a-kilometre wide, which could soon set loose an iceberg the size of Haryana, at over 5,000 sq. km. We need to pay more attention because it could potentially gravely impact India in the near and long term.

The Larsen C Crack-Up in Antarctica: Why It Matters
Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
We are living at a scary moment, a time when even the best scientists are struggling to understand just how quickly and dramatically our world can change. Maybe the best way to think about the Larsen C is as a prelude to the coming catastrophe, and as a last-minute call to action. “The Larsen C is Mother Nature’s warning flag,” polar explorer Robert Swan said at the Sun Valley Institute’s annual forum last week. “It’s her way of saying, ‘Hey, pay attention to what you’re doing to the planet we all live on.’”

 

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