The United States in Antarctica


Report of the

U. S. Antarctic Program

External Panel

Washington, D. C.
April 1997


Questions regarding availability of this document may be directed to the

National Science Foundation, Arlington, Virginia 22230.

United States Antarctic Program External Panel

Washington, D. C.

April 1997


This document represents the final report of the United States Antarctic Program External Panel. The report hs he unanimous approval of all 11 panel members and drraws upon our collective experience which includes som 4 individual trips to Antarctica involving visits to all three U. S. stations, each research ship, support icebreakers and numerous field sites. As a panel, we visited McMurdo Station and South Pole Station and toure support facilities at Christchurch. We received approximately 70 briefings and conducted 80 "one-on-one" meetings with individuals involved in virtually all aspects of the Antarctic Program. Over 200 inputs were received in response to our request for "public comments."

During visits to McMurdo and the Pole, the Panel conducted informal "Town Meetings" and was the beneficayof numerous comments by members of those communities having first-hand experience in day-to-day operations. We are most appreciative of the candor and professionalism with which we were treated by those with whom we came into contact, and in particular the members of the National Science Foundation who so expertly and constructively supported our efforts.

We believe the U. S. Antarctic Program is well managed, involves high quality science and is important to the region as well as to the United States. We also believe that in the current budget environment, costs must be reduced, preferably through increased efficency and "reinvention," but, if not, through reduced scope. Rtnsae offered herein to help ensure the continued viability of the program into the 21st century.



1.0 Executive Summary

2.0 Introduction

3.0 AntarcticaThe Environment

4.0 Antarctica Past and Present

4.1 Early Antarctic Activity
4.2 Current U.S. Antarctic Program
4.3 Recent History of U.S. Science in Antarctica

5.0 Antarctica - Significance Today

5.1 Importance of U.S. Presence in Antarctica
5.2 Development of U.S. Policy
5.3 Antarctic Research
5.4 Environmental Considerations

6.0 Findings

6.1 Geopolitical Significance
6.2 Scientific Activity
6.3 International Cooperation
6.4 Facilities
6.5 Provisions for Capital Asset Replenishment
6.6 Life-Extension of Existing South Pole Facilities
6.7 Level Funding
6.8 Safety and Health
6.9 Management Effectiveness
6.10 Ongoing Facility Improvements
6.11 Cost Visibility
6.12 Personnel Issues
6.13 Support Capacity
6.14 Management Structure
6.15 Cost Reduction Opportunities
6.16 Transition of Aviation Responsibilities
6.17 Telecommunications
6.18 Robotics
6.19 Technology Opportunities
6.20 Education Opportunities
6.21 Tourism
6.22 National Commitment to an Antarctic Policy

7.0 Recommendations

7.1 Presence
7.2 Safety and Health
7.3 Program Scope
7.4 International Cooperation
7.5 South Pole Facilities
7.6. Funding
7.7. Planning and Budgeting
7.8 Management
7.9 Program Integration
7.10 Transition
7.11 Telecommunications
7.12 Tourism


I. Biographies of Members
II. Terms of Reference
III. State Department Views
IV. Summary of Recommendations
V. Presentations and Interactions
VI. International Agreements: Excerpts
VII. Bibliography



  1. Federal spending for polar research in FY96
  2. Cutaway view of the Antarctic ice sheet and bedrock
  3. Map comparing sizes of Antarctica and the United States
  4. Antarctic annual temperatures at three locations
  5. How Antarctic ice affects world climate
  6. The life cycle of the emperor penguin
  7. "Antarctic Meltdown" (effect of melting ice sheet)
  8. South Pole/North Pole map and comparison table
  9. Cruise tracks of Captain Cook and other early explorers
  10. Attainment of the South Pole (Amundsen and Scott)
  11. Comparison of impact of whaling and ozone hole
  12. Gondwana (maps of former supercontinent)
  13. Map of Antarctic stations (all nations)
  14. Number of Antarctic Treaty nations, 1959-1997
  15. U. S. Antarctic Program spending history, 1955-1997
  16. USAP FY95 funding for support and science by facility
  17. USAP FY95 science grants to research institutions
  18. McMurdo Station
  19. McMurdo Station annual population cycle, June 1994 - May 1997
  20. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
  21. Palmer Station
  22. R/V Polar Duke (ice-strengthened research ship)
  23. R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer (research icebreaker)
  24. USCGC Polar Sea (logistics icebreaker)
  25. Green Wave (cargo ship)
  26. LC-130 Hercules
  27. Twin Otter research/support airplane
  28. Contract helicopter being unloaded from C-5
  29. Automated geophysical observatory
  30. Field camp
  31. International cooperation (Cape Roberts project)
  32. Number of projects and research personnel compared to budget
  33. USARP and operational support budgets, FY85-FY97
  34. USAP dollars per research personnel
  35. USAP dollars per research project
  36. U.S. Government Executive Branch policy statements regarding Antarctica
  37. The ozone hole (stratospheric depletion vs time)
  38. The ozone hole (vertical profile from South Pole Station)
  39. The ozone hole (satellite image of Antarctica)
  40. The ozone hole (satellite image of southern hemisphere)
  41. Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA) at South Pole
  42. West Antarctic Ice Stream (WAIS) project and Glacier educational project
  43. Southern ocean cross section
  44. Sea ice extent, summer minimum
  45. Sea ice extent, winter maximum
  46. Flux of carbon dioxide: southern ocean JGOFS experiment
  47. Organisms living in Dry Valleys rock
  48. Cyanobacteria in saline Dry Valleys lake
  49. Algal bloom on under surface of sea ice
  50. McMurdo bulk fuel tanks
  51. Snow drift at South Pole (two photographs)
  52. Elevated structures at South Pole Station
  53. South Pole water well
  54. Jamesways at South Pole Station
  55. South Pole Station garage
  56. Nine 25,000-gallon rubber fuel bladders, South Pole
  57. Existing South Pole station (1989 photograph)
  58. Useful life projections, existing South Pole Station
  59. Utilidor (utilities tunnel) at South Pole Station
  60. Enhanced Station at South Pole (artist's conception)
  61. Capabilities, three South Pole Station options
  62. Design parameters, three South Pole Station options
  63. Optimized Station at South Pole (artist's conception)
  64. Reductions from Enhanced to Optimized Station
  65. Costs through 2002 and 2025, four South Pole Station options
  66. Assumed USAP "level" budget, FY98-FY02
  67. Funding schedule, South Pole Optimized Station, FY98-FY02
  68. Cost of McMurdo and Palmer improvements, total and FY98-FY02
  69. USAP science grants and science support costs, FY98-FY02
  70. USAP level cost five-year budget assessment
  71. USAP funding shortfall, FY98-FY02
  72. Mobile runway support facility, McMurdo
  73. Reverse osmosis water production at McMurdo
  74. Vintage heavy vehicle at McMurdo
  75. Communication with the South Pole
  76. Number of tourists visiting Antarctica since 1980