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U.S. Antarctic Program, 2000-2001

During the 2000-2001 austral summer and the 2001 austral winter, the U.S. Antarctic Program supported more than 800 researchers and other participants in the US Antarctic Program at three year-round stations (McMurdo, Amundsen-Scott South Pole, and Palmer), aboard two research ships (Laurence M. Gould and Nathaniel B. Palmer) in the Ross Sea and in the Antarctic Peninsula region, at remote field camps, and in cooperation with the national antarctic programs of the other Antarctic Treaty nations. These projects, funded and managed by the National Science Foundation (NSF), are part of the international effort to understand the Antarctic and its role in global processes. NSF also supports research that can be best or only performed in Antarctica.

The scientists, conducting the projects, come primarily from US universities and have won NSF support in response to the Antarctic Research Program Announcement and Proposal Guide (NSF 01-81; http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf0181). Operational resources in Antarctica also are used to support scientists from other Federal agencies.

Highlights of the 2000-2001 austral summer research include:

Lake Vostok aerial survey. The Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research, an NSF-funded project at the University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics, is using a specially equipped Twin Otter airplane to map a 205- by 102-mile grid over subglacial Lake Vostok. The lake, the size of Lake Ontario in North America, has been thousands of meters beneath the East Antarctic Ice Sheet for millions of years and may contain microbes different from known species. The radar survey is a necessary precursor to any international effort to explore the lake. A clean drilling technology would be required to prevent contamination. For additional information about the Lake Vostok project, visit the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory site at http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/./vostok/index.html.

Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI). An interferometric array of 13 microwave antennas is measuring cosmic background radiation temperature variations in a fairly large area of the sky above South Pole. The results appear to have produced some of the most sensitive measurements ever made to help unravel mysteries of the early universe and the nature of the dark matter and energy that many scientists believe constitute most of the universe. For more information about the project, visit either the DASI site on the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica web site at http://astro.uchicago.edu/cara/research/cmbr/dasi.html and the home site for the DASI project at http://astro.uchicago.edu/cara/research/cmbr/dasi.html.

Southern Ocean Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics (SO/GLOBEC). Seventeen science teams are using NSF's icebreaking Nathaniel B. Palmer and ice-strengthened Laurence M. Gould research ships to study how marine animals respond to natural and human-caused climate change. During the 2001 austral winter, the ships are working in Marguerite Bay area near the Antarctic Peninsula from March to August. The study is quantifying processes controlling the flux of carbon and other biogenic elements and predicting the response of marine biochemistry to climate change. The Southern Ocean appears to have an extremely large role in this flux. Information about the Southern Ocean GLOBEC program can be at http://www.ccpo.odu.edu:80/Research/globec_menu.html

Iceberg B-15 investigations. An expedition to iceberg B-15, twice the size of the state of Delaware when it calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000, affixed sensors on the berg to study movement of ice in the Southern Ocean. NSF press releases about the project can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/2000/ma0019.htm and http://www.nsf.gov/OD/lpa/news/media/01/ma0104.htm.

International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE). Researchers conducted an overland crossing to study the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The traverse is the US part of an International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE), a multi-year project seeking to understand changes in the mass and the climate of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the climatic events recorded in the ice. Additional information about the project can be found at the University of Maine at http://www.ume.maine.edu/USITASE.

During the 2000-2001 austral summer, seven teachers from US elementary, middle, and high schools joined researchers on eight projects this austral summer as part of NSF's Teachers Experiencing Antarctica (TEA) project. TEA immerses teachers in research as part of their professional development and to create a polar learning community of teachers, students, school districts, and researchers. US Antarctic Program investigators volunteer to include TEA participants in their field parties; NSF selects the teachers competitively.

The Antarctic Artists and Writers Program provides opportunities for painters, photographers, writers, and others to use serious writing and the arts to increase understanding of the Antarctic and America's heritage there. The 2000-2001 austral summer participants included two painters, an underwater photographer, and a nautralist writing and illustrating a book on birds in Chile and the adjacent Antarctic.

Logistics to support these projects includes heavy-lift, ski-equipped C-130 airplanes operated by the New York Air National Guard, ski-equipped Twin Otter airplanes chartered from a Canadian firm, and C-141 and C-5 airplanes provided by the US Air Force between New Zealand and McMurdo Station. Contract helicopters are headquartered at McMurdo to provide operational and close science support. Ground vehicles operated and maintained by an NSF contractor, provide specialized science support and other services. Annually, a US Coast Guard icebreaker opens a channel to McMurdo and provides science support. A tanker and a cargo ship, operated by the Military Sealift Command, bring fuel, cargo, and equipment each January.

Modernization and improvement of the 25-year-old Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station continued. In the last 3 years a new fuel storage facility and a new garage and shop have been erected. During the 2000-2001 austral, a new electric power plant became operational. Modernization of the core station has begun with construction of a tower up from the subsurface new power plant, garage/shop, and fuel facilities. Steel construction of housing and food-service wings of the new elevated station started this summer. The wings will be completed in the austral winter. The project will be completed in 2005. The South Pole Safety and Environmental Project (a $25-million undertaking) and the South Pole Station Modernization Project (a $128-million initiative) will replace the existing station by 2005.

This document is arranged by scientific discipline, except for sections focused on multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary research projects. The order reflects the organization of the Antarctic Sciences Section of NSF's Office of Polar Programs, which funds projects in biology, medical research, ocean sciences, climate studies, geology and geophysics, glaciology, aeronomy, astronomy, and astrophysics.

Related information products that are produced or funded by NSF include:

Press releases issued by the Foundation's Public Affairs Office to describe specific research progress. See the NSF World Wide Web page at http://www.nsf.gov or call 703-292-8070.

The Antarctic Sun, which Raytheon Polar Services staff produce in Antarctica during the austral summer for USAP participants. It is funded by NSF and distributed outside of Antarctica from RPSC's web site at http://www.polar.org/AntSun/index.htm. Copies from past season are also available.

     
  US Antarctic Program, 2000-2001
Sites of major activities
    Map: U.S. Antarctic Program, 1999-2000, sites of major activities
   
   
 
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