Pole cannot be fixed as the ice is continuously moving, whereas a marker at the South Pole can be fixed and moves only fractionally. Therefore it is possible to stand at the actual current position of the Pole and see, just a few metres away, the marker where Scott and Amundsen themselves stood over eighty-five years ago.
The Southern Ocean is a continuous sea surrounding Antarctica. In winter more than half freezes over to about a depth of one metre, creating a further ice area larger again than Antarctica itself. This invariably melts during the summer period. The waters of the Southern Ocean have an effect on all oceans of the world and they also support an abundance of fish creatures including fin fish, crab, squid and krill. Continuing scientific studies are taking place of the food resources that are found there. The krill, which are shrimp-like crustaceans, are at the bottom of the animal food chain but are possibly of prime importance the killer whale attacks and feeds on the leopard seal, which in turn attacks the Ross and Weddell seals and the penguins, which then feed on squid and small fish, and these feed on krill which survives in huge quantities and itself feeds from the plankton.
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The polar vortex of Antarctica is between 10 to 20 km above the Earth’s surface and needs constant monitoring in order to report on the current position. It is capable of causing immense damage to the ozone levels in the stratosphere. This ozone hole is over 26 million square kilometres and tragically it is increasing. It is presently more than three times the size of continental US.
Antarctica also provides a unique place and opportunity on many fronts to study terrestrial and extra-terrestrial phenomena. The ionosphere above Antarctica provides an exceptional viewing window through which it is easier to research nearly all regions of geospace by remote sensing processes. Geospace, possibly a million kilometres long, is where the atmospheres of the Sun and the Earth meet. On a continuing basis, thousands of tonnes of ionised material are thrown out of the Sun into space. This outflow is called the solar wind and rushes towards the earth’s magnetosphere at hundreds of kilometres per second. The results could be devastating but fortunately the earth’s magnetic defence systems deflect and divert the incoming attacks. The greatest dangers from the solar wind occur during the most violent phase of the Sun’s 11 year cycle, a period known as solar max.
One continuing special effect, when the ionised particles collide with other neutral particles, is the creation of a gossamer curtain, aurora, the multi-coloured, dazzling, shooting lights which astound at both polar regions where the magnetic fields are at their strongest. The aurora australis, the ‘Southern Lights’, can reach up to one thousand kilometres into the sky. During solar max the aurora can also be seen from time to time in the lower latitudes.
Possibly some of the Antarctic rocks can provide the answers to evolutionary questions concerning the southern continents, as well as other parts of the world and even the universe itself. In Antarctica, in 1984, a meteorite was found but only more recently have tests been able to establish it as having come from Mars. The rock plummeted to rest in the Allan Hills ice field of Antarctica and was named after its discovery place and date as ALH 84001. The mineral content of the rock and the composition of its gas bubbles sealed within it, match those of the surface rocks of Mars and relate to the Martian atmosphere which was measured by the Viking probe that reached the red planet in 1976. The rock was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. The conjecture is that an asteroid or a comet struck the surface of the Mars planet some 15 million years ago and the impact sent a mass of material on a long journey into orbit. This finally culminated, about 13,000 years later, when some material entered the earth’s atmosphere.
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