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Frequently Asked Questions about the U.S. Antarctic Program

How can I participate in the U.S. Antarctic Program?

The Foundation provides "Opportunities for Participation" in several categories in addition to that of science. Science opportunities are described in more detail elsewhere in this Web site.

How can I go to Antarctica if I am willing to pay?
Privately owned and operated companies provide tours. Contact the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators or call (206)-854-7541.

What is the United States policy regarding private expeditions to Antarctica

U.S. policy on private expeditions to Antarctica is described at

How can a reporter get an interview or collect facts for a story?

Contact the NSF Media team at

How can I get a free paper copy of National Science Foundation polar publications, program announcements, or proposal solicitations?

If you know the publication number (e.g., NSF 97-157), call the NSF publications unit at 301-947-2722, or e-mail Information about all NSF publications and documents may be obtained through the Foundation's Online Document System or through the NSF's "Obtaining Publications " page.

How can I get Antarctic slides and aerial photographs?

Images online:

Leidos Antarctic Support Contract (ASC), Polar Programs's antarctic support contractor, maintains for NSF the U.S. Antarctic Program photo library on the web portal at The collection includes current images of science, support activities, and U.S. facilities in Antarctica. The images are in jpeg format and are free to the public. Reproduction and distribution are encouraged, however, the photographer and the National Science Foundation should be credited.

Aerial photographs:

The U.S. Geological Survey makes available aerial photographs, satellite imagery, and other related information through its EarthExplorer.

Aerial and satellite images are also available from the Polar Geospatial Center, University of Minnesota

How can I get antarctic maps?

Call the U.S. Geological Survey Information Service at 1(888) ASK-USGS. To obtain information and catalogs, and to order topographic maps or any of the wide variety of thematic maps available from the USGS, contact:

USGS Information Services
Box 25286
Denver, CO 80225
Telephone: (303) 202-4200 or
1(888) ASK-USGS (for information or ordering assistance)
Fax: (303) 202-4693

Information on maps, photographs, and publications can be obtained online at the USGS "Maps, Imagery, and Publications" page on the U.S. Geological Survey web site.

The Polar Geospatial Center, University of Minnesota, also can provide digital antarctic and arctic maps. See their web site at or contact them at (612) 626-0505. Their address is

Polar Geospatial Center
R280 Learning & Environnmental Sciences
1954 Buford Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55108

Is there a list of Antarctic place names?

Geographic Names of the Antarctic (NSF 95-157. 2d ed., Fred G. Alberts, ed.) contains 12,710 names approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names and the Secretary of the Interior for features in Antarctica and the area northward to the Antarctic Convergence. Stock number 038-000-00591-0, $43, $53.75 (non-U.S.), Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

You can search the USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) for these names by going to the Antarctic Geographic Names Data Base web page.

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) has also compiled an online data base—the Composite Gazetteer of Antarctica. This compilation brings together 21,552 names applied to 16,536 antarctic features—all the names that 20 countries have officially given to antarctic geographic features, as well as Antarctic undersea features taken from the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans.

How can I find out about published Antarctic literature?

Since 2000, the American Geological Institute, supported by the NSF and the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) under NSF cooperative agreement OPP 99-09727, has maintained the Cold Regions Bibliography Project, providing access to the Antarctic Bibliography and the Bibliography on Cold Regions Science and Technology.

The Library of Congress produced the Antarctic Bibliography for the Foundation, covering the period 1951-1998. For online searching, go to the Library's Cold Regions page.

For the period 1996-1998, you can consult the Library of Congress for issues of the former monthly Current Antarctic Literature online. For antarctic literature published before 1951, a source is the library catalog of the Scott Polar Research Institute.

What do you have for kids?

During the International Polar Year (2007-2009), the National Science Foundation funded a number of educational projects that web sites. Among these projects are

  • Polar Palooza: POLAR-PALOOZA aims to "connect the poles to the planet" through three complementary strategies: Organizing and hosting public presentations of polar research by the researchers at science centers and natural history museums across America; videotaping and conducting interviews in the Arctic and the Antarctic; and publishing a series of podcasts and video on the Internet.
  • Live from the Poles: Live from the Poles (LFTP) will heighten public awareness during the International Polar Year (IPY) by bringing cutting-edge science to diverse, worldwide audiences. It is designed to share the excitement of polar exploration, communicate the importance of the poles, and invigorate the next generation of scientists and engineers.
  • Ice Stories — Dispatches from Scientists: The Exploratorium (a science museum in San Francisco) created Ice Stories, a major Web and media effort to showcase research in the Arctic and Antarctic for national and world audiences during the International Polar Year of 2007-2009. The museum produced media stories and disseminate them through (1) a media and content-rich Internet portal that provides context for major IPY activities and (2) a media-assets database for students and journalists in all media, as well as educators, museum partners, archivists and historians.

Older materials on the Antarctic include

  • With Foundation support, Sesame Workshop has produced a 29-page color booklet Antarctica (NSF/Sesame Workshop 2001).
  • Another NSF-supported site is PolarTrec, a program for K-12 teachers managed by Arctic Research Consortium of the United States.

How can I get back issues of Antarctic Journal of the United States?

Send an e-mail citing volume and number (or month and year) to David Friscic ( Digitial copies of back issues are available on the Cold Regions Bibliography Project site at For additional information about the Antarctic Journal, consult the Journal home page.

How many year-round stations are in Antarctica?

As of the beginning of 2007, 20 nations operated 37 year-round stations. Several of the nations had additional temporary camps in summer.

What research vessels does the U.S. Antarctic Program operate?

R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer is a research ship with icebreaking capability that works throughout the southern ocean. R/V Laurence M. Gould is an ice-strengthened research and resupply ship that works in the Antarctic Peninsula area and with Palmer Station, Antarctica.

What type of clothing is worn in Antarctica?

Heavily insulated clothing that includes a parka, insulated vest, windproof leggings, thermal boots or mukluks, heavy socks, thermal underwear, cap, balaklava, neck gaiter, various gloves, and goggles. For U.S. Antarctic Program participants, the National Science Foundation maintains and issues clothing at centers in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Punta Arenas, Chile.

What is the Office of Polar Programs?

The Office of Polar Programs is an operating unit of the National Science Foundation, an agency of the United States Government. The Office of Polar Programs implements the Foundation's responsibility to fund and manage the United States Antarctic Program, and it funds the Foundation's Arctic Research Program.

What is SCAR?

SCAR is the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, of the International Council of Scientific Unions. It is nongovernmental. The Polar Research Board, National Research Council is the U.S. adhering body to SCAR; through it the National Science Foundation provides funding for U.S. participation.

What is COMNAP?

COMNAP is the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, originated in the United States by the American Geophysical Union with support from the Foundation. COMNAP headquarters is currently based in Christchurch, New Zealand (COMNAP c/o Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand 8140

How big is Antarctica?

The continent of Antarctica (including contiguous ice shelves) has an area of 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles), larger than the United States and Mexico combined.

What is the mean annual temperature of Antarctica?

Minus 57° Celsius.

What is the most heavily populated Antarctic station?

McMurdo Station (U.S.), with more than 1,000 people during the austral summer.

When did the Antarctic Treaty start?

Representatives of 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty on 1 December 1959 in Washington, D.C. The treaty entered into force on 23 June 1961 after these nations' governments deposited their instruments of ratification with the U.S. Department of State. Since then the treaty has been modified through adoption of recommendations developed at consultative meetings and through adoption of supplemental agreements.