Facilities for research in Antarctica include research stations with scientific equipment and laboratories, helicopters, ski-equipped LC-130 airplanes, Twin Otter airplanes, surface vehicles, a wide array of equipment for use in establishing temporary camps, an ice-strengthened research ship, a research icebreaker, and a logistics icebreaker. These facilities are operated under the guidance of NSF's Polar Research Support Section (703-306-1032) by a contractor (Antarctic Support Associates, 303-790-8606) and its subcontractors, by military units of the Department of Defense, and by the U.S. Coast Guard. The following facilities are expected to be available in the Antarctic.

McMurdo Station (77°53'S 166°40'E)

McMurdo, on Ross Island, is the largest station in Antarctica, accommodating up to 1,200 people in summer and 250 in winter. It occupies the globe's farthest south land accessible by ship; adjacent ice supports runways and skiways for large airplanes.

The Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center at McMurdo, opened in 1991, is a state-of-the-art facility that enables sophisticated laboratory procedures in the range of antarctic disciplines. It has lab space, aquarium space, staging areas, analytical instrumentation, personal computers and work stations, a local area network, and full access to Internet.

The Crary Lab also supports environmental and ecological investigations, bioassays, industrial hygiene surveys, chemical analyses, and snow and ice mechanics and engineering. A meteorology center has AVHRR, HRPT, DMSP, and other data archives and an interactive data access system.

The Crary Lab has five pods in three phases, or wings, totaling 4,320 square meters of working area. Phase I has a two-story core pod (for telecommunications and information) and a biology pod. Phase II has earth science and atmospheric science pods. Phase III has an aquarium and a wet lab.

The Crary Lab replaces outdated science buildings that were built as early as 1959. Additional McMurdo facilities support research involving diving, balloon launches, field party training and outfitting, upper atmosphere investigations, etc.

In summer, portable shelters and equipment aid research on and under the sea ice of adjacent McMurdo Sound; helicopters support projects and camps within 150 kilometers of the station; and surface vehicles provide local transportation and support for traverses.

McMurdo is the hub of the program; in summer it has a seaport and two airfields. The program's helicopters, LC-130 transport airplanes, and, in some years, leased Twin Otters are based at McMurdo. Persons en route to South Pole and to most remote field camps pass through McMurdo.

Air transportation is provided between New Zealand and McMurdo several times per week from the first of October to late February. Flights are made to and from the station over several days in mid-August. At other times the station historically has been isolated. A runway on glacier ice ('Pegasus') became operational in February 1992; wheeled airplanes can use it most of the year. The U.S. Antarctic Program will be receptive to proposals for research any time of year at McMurdo including winter.

Communications between McMurdo and the rest of the world are available year-round, 24 hours a day, and include telephone, electronic mail, Internet including the World Wide Web, and amateur voice radio. Regular U.S. mail service is available in summer.

The McMurdo region has been the object of vigorous scientific attention. An abundant literature presents questions for further study in marine biology, earth sciences, and other areas.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (90°S)

Opened in 1957, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was rebuilt in 1975 as a research facility under a geodesic dome and steel arches. In recent years it has undergone substantial renovation and improvement to handle increased research needs. The station is at an elevation of 2,835 meters on the continental ice sheet and has a mean temperature of minus 49.3°C.

Flights between McMurdo and South Pole are frequent from late October to mid-February; the station is isolated at other times. February-to-October (austral winter) population is about 28. About 150 can be accommodated in the summer.

The station has a clean-air research facility and computer systems for research and communication. It is an important monitoring station for atmospheric constituents and meteorological data and is ideally located for studies of the cusp region of the magnetosphere. Astrophysics has flourished at the station in recent years, taking advantage of excellent optical properties of the atmosphere above the station resulting from its high elevation and the extremely low temperature and humidity. A biomedical research facility is available. Other active areas of current interest include geophysics, upper atmosphere sciences, and glaciology.

Palmer Station (64°46'S 64°03'W)

Palmer, on Anvers Island near the Antarctic Peninsula, has been in operation since 1965. It is operated in conjunction with an ice-strengthened research ship (Polar Duke until 1997, then Laurence M. Gould). Small boats are available for sampling in the sea and at nearby islands. Access to Palmer, which is year-round, generally is by ship from the southern tip of South America.

The climate at Palmer is less severe than that at the other U.S. stations, and the fauna and flora are diverse. There are many opportunities for biology at or near the station; other disciplines (e.g., meteorology, upper atmosphere physics) also are represented. Palmer has extensive biology laboratories, including wet lab areas and sea water aquaria. See worksheets for specifications. Palmer's population has ranged from 8 to 12 in winter to above 40 in summer.

The Palmer Station area in 1990 was designated by the National Science Foundation as a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site. For information contact the biology program manager at OPP.

Temporary camps

In the austral summer, aircraft from McMurdo can place scientific parties almost anywhere on the continent. Tents or heated shelters and snowmobiles can be provided. Helicopters sometimes are deployed to remote locations for close support of research parties. Substantial camps remote from McMurdo Station can be established for large research groups.

Automated data gatherers (AGO and AWS)

The program supports automated geophysical observatories (AGOs) for unmanned collection of data at remote locations. Investigators wishing to use these facilities or the resulting data should contact a science program manager (see Office of Polar Programs roster).

Automatic weather stations (AWSs) have been placed at various locations in Antarctica. For information and data, contact Dr. Charles Stearns, Department of Meteorology, University of Wisconsin, 1225 W. Dayton Street, Madison, Wisconsin 53706 (chucks@ssec.wisc.edu, or see the home page http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/~rbrbrn/awsproj.html).

UV radiation monitoring network

The program operates precision spectroradiometers optimized for measuring solar ultraviolet radiation at South Pole, Palmer, and McMurdo in Antarctica and at Ushuaia, Argentina, Point Barrow, Alaska, and San Diego. Data are distributed regularly in support of seasonal research and are available annually on CD-ROM. The data include irradiance scans and databases of integrated UV exposure and a variety of dosages. Contact Biospherical Instruments, 5340 Riley Street, San Diego, California 92110-2521 (support@biospherical.com or http://www.biospherical.com/).

Research ships

Polar Duke. The Antarctic Program's chartered 67-meter-long ice-strengthened Polar Duke can accommodate 22 researchers. The ship is equipped for marine biology, physical and chemical oceanography, and marine geophysics. It operates frequently along the Antarctic Peninsula and in the South Shetland Islands; research cruises are made elsewhere as required. Several trips are made between South American ports and Antarctica each austral summer.

Polar Duke was built in 1983 for science and transport of polar expeditions. The hull has an ice classification rated for light icebreaking. The ship is thus permitted to perform missions in moderate pack ice, but must stay clear of heavy ice and thick pack to avoid besetment.

The ship has five laboratories totaling about 150 square meters. Research equipment includes a seismic system, a portable isotope laboratory, and dedicated oceanographic instrumentation (e.g., CTD). The ship has a deep sea trawl winch and hydrographic winches, cranes, and A-frames. It has satellite navigation, radar, doppler, and precision depth recorders.

Polar Duke is chartered to the U.S. Antarctic Program until 1997, when Laurence M. Gould will replace it.

Specifications, Polar Duke:

Built: 1983
Length: 219 feet
Beam: 43 feet
Draft: 19 feet
Endurance: 90 days
Gross Tons: 1,594
Crew: 14
Ice Class: 1AA
Engines: Twin diesel 2250 bhp each, bow and stern thrusters
Controllable pitch 240 rpm propeller, Kort nozzle

Laurence M. Gould. Edison Chouest Offshore, which built and operates Nathaniel B. Palmer (see below), is building and will operate this ship for the U.S. Antarctic Program beginning in 1997 to replace Polar Duke. The new ship, 70.1 meters in length (preliminary specification), will have science functions comparable to Polar Duke, including A-frames, winches, towing gear, a wet lab, a hydro lab, a dry lab, an electronics lab, and an aquarium room. It will accommodate 26 researchers and support technicians, most in double rooms each with heads.

Nathaniel B. Palmer. A research vessel with icebreaking capability, Nathaniel B. Palmer, 94 meters in length, began antarctic operations in 1992 under a 10-year lease. The ship is a first-rate platform for global change studies, including biological, oceanographic, geological, and geophysical components. It can operate safely year-round in antarctic waters that often are stormy or covered with sea ice. It accommodates 37 scientists and support technicians, has a crew of 22, and is capable of up to 75-day missions. It has about 280 square meters of working deck area, 370 square meters of laboratory space, and modern oceanographic equipment. The ship is named Nathaniel B. Palmer to commemorate the American credited with first seeing Antarctica.

Instruments on Nathaniel B. Palmer are available for not-to-interfere underway measurements on behalf of investigators who do not join a cruise. Instruments include Seacat 21 thermosalinograph, Turner model 10 fluorometer, Simrad EK500 scientific echo sounder and other acoustic and bathymetric systems, LaCoste-Romberg gravity meter, XBTs, and meteorological sensors. A wide-swath bottom mapping system is installed. A more complete list is in a checklist worksheet in this book. Proposals for management of long-term measurements and data archiving will be considered. Identify technician staffing and other shipboard support both in the proposal and on Nathaniel B. Palmer worksheet in this book.

Specifications, Nathaniel B. Palmer:

Length overall: 308.50 ft or 94.0 meters
Length on waterline: 279.75 ft or 85.3 meters
Breadth, moulded: 60.00 ft or 18.3 meters
Breadth, maximum: 60.00 ft or 18.3 meters
Draft, design: 22.5 ft or 6.6 meters
Depth: 30.00 ft or 9.1 meters
Displacement: 6800 LT or 6620 tonnes
Light ship weight: 4800 LT or 5040 tonnes
Propulsion: 4 main engines, total 13,000 hp, 2 shafts, variable pitch Kort nozzle propellers

Other ships. In some years, research also may be pursued aboard University-National Oceanographic Laboratory Systems (UNOLS) ships or other ships, including those of other Antarctic Treaty nations.

Research ship EEZ clearances

Any research that is north of 60°S and involves work in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of another nation (typically within 200 nautical miles of the coast of that nation), including underway measurements such as collecting multibeam data, gravity data, or surface water samples, requires an appropriate research clearance from the nation involved.

Justify any EEZ work in the proposal, and provide information needed for a permit application. NSF's contractor ASA submits the application to the Department of State, which must receive it no later than 6 months before the cruise.

Airborne sensing

The Support Office for Aerogeophysical Research (SOAR) is a research facility that supports OPP-sponsored aerogeophysical work in Antarctica. The facility operates a suite of geophysical systems (gravimeter, magnetometer, laser altimeter, and ice-penetrating radar) aboard a Twin Otter aircraft. Positional information is provided by differential GPS (both pseudo-range and carrier-phase), supplemented by inertial navigation and precision pressure altimetery data.

Investigators wishing to use the SOAR facility should contact the science coordinator at SOAR no later than 60 days prior to proposal submission to ensure that the specific goals can be met, that the proposed project is technically feasible, and that the project can be accomodated with uncommitted facility time. Scheduling of the facility will be the responsibility of the facility management team, with direction from NSF.

SOAR is supported through a cooperative agreement between NSF and the University of Texas at Austin. Parties needing further information or wishing to add themselves to the SOAR mailing list should contact the facility's Science Coordinator at 512-471-0491 or jeff@utig.ig.utexas.edu. The mailing address is 8701 N. Mopac Blvd., Austin, Texas, 78759-8391 (http://www.ig.utexas.edu/research/projects/soar.html).

Investigators developing programs utilizing airborne remote sensing techniques which are beyond the current capabilities of the SOAR facility should contact a science program manager.

High precision GPS

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a worldwide, all-weather navigation and positioning system operated by the Department of Defense. GPS has been used in Antarctica for several years. The use of GPS for high precision antarctic surveying (1mm - 10 m) is increasing, with applications including geodetic surveying, glacial flow measurement, aircraft position, velocity and acceleration determination, mapping, seismic instrument positioning on moving ice sheets, glacial geology, isostasy, and sample positioning.

The U.S. Antarctic Program has an agreement with University Navstar Consortium (UNAVCO) for GPS support. UNAVCO was established in 1984 as a facility by the NSF Division of Earth Sciences to provide equipment, technical, and other support to university investigators applying GPS technology to geosciences. UNAVCO has supported investigators in more than 100 regional GPS geodesy projects worldwide and supports several U.S. and international continuously operating GPS stations.

UNAVCO has been providing equipment and predeployment support to antarctic investigators since 1986. Support currently includes

  1. a pool of geodetic quality receivers for the field season,
  2. infield equipment repair,
  3. infield engineering support,
  4. infield and predeployment training in the use of GPS receivers,
  5. training in GPS data processing,
  6. archiving of GPS data, and
  7. assistance in project planning and experiment design.

UNAVCO's assistance in the design of projects includes advice about both field support and data processing. Resources are limited, and investigators who have their own receivers and field staff are encouraged to use them. Investigators who do not have access to geodetic-quality GPS receivers and are contemplating their use for high-precision surveying as part of their proposed work should contact UNAVCO to discuss the requirements. In general, proposals should build GPS expertise into the science project plan and the budget.

On the Operational Requirements worksheets, specify the number of receivers required and the time needed to complete the GPS field work. Describe how the work will be done, including any need for permanent markers. Contact UNAVCO if you need help developing this information.

P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, Colorado 80307
303-497-8034 (Bjorn Johns), 303-497-8007 (Barb Perin)
303-497-8028 (fax)
http://www.unavco.ucar.edu, select 'Contact Us'

Specimens for research

Specimens collected in the Antarctic are available to qualified investigators for study if approved by the Foundation. For information, including the procedure for obtaining samples, contact the facilities listed below.

Ice cores. National Ice Core Laboratory, Mail Stop 939, Box 25046 DFC, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, Colorado 80225 (303-236-5562, fax 303-236-5448), E-mail: jfitz@bspsvr.cr.usgs.gov. World Wide Web home page: http://instaar.colorado.edu/nicl/welcome.html.

Ocean-bottom sedimentary cores and grab samples; continental cores. Antarctic Marine Geology Core Library, Department of Geology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306 (904-644-2407) (http://geomag.gly.fsu.edu/~curator/index.html).

Meteorite samples. Secretary, Meteorite Working Group, Curator's Branch SN2, Johnson Space Center, NASA, Houston, Texas 77058 (http://exploration.jsc.nasa.gov/curator/antmet/antmet.htm).

Biological specimens. National Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560 (202-357-2030, mnh.fanchald@ic.si.edu).

Non-U.S. facilities; international cooperation

The United States cooperates in research with other Antarctic Treaty nations. U.S. scientists wishing to do research with other nations' programs are asked to contact an Office of Polar Programs program manager before submitting a formal proposal.

The U.S. Antarctic Program is enthusiastically open to cooperation with other Antarctic Treaty nations when mutually beneficial. These projects often occur because of initiative taken by individual scientists. In your discussions, remember that individuals cannot commit U.S. Antarctic Program resources. Your acceptance of a generous offer from another nation's antarctic program could be construed as commitment of U.S. resources for some later project.

Do not hesitate in your collaboration with overseas colleagues, but please contact an OPP program manager (703-306-1033) upon commencing discussions that could lead to U.S. Antarctic Program involvement.

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