U.S. Antarctic Program news
How are the Arctic and the Antarctic different? Why do scientists consider the Antarctic to be a desert? How does the southernmost continent affect the weather in my town? What animals live at the poles? Questions like these will be the focus of the 1998 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW), "Polar Connections." NSTW's goal is to engage children and adults in communities across the country in science activities that are both fun and informative and to help all participants understand how science and technology benefit them daily.
Started in 1985, the NSTW is an education and public outreach program of the National Science Foundation (NSF). During the upcoming NSTW, 26 April to 2 May 1998, thousands of other organizations, including schools, museums, zoos, community groups, businesses, and professional organizations, will join with NSF to sponsor activities designed to encourage program participants to do what scientists studying the polar regions do: to ask questions; to collect, observe, and analyze data; and to draw conclusions.
"Few areas of the world capture the imagination like the unspoiled wilderness of the polar regions," says Julia Moore, NSF's director of legislative and public affairs. "Their rich natural and human history is one of triumphant adaptation to extreme conditions, and their undeniable impact on our lives challenges us to exciting scientific exploration and discovery."
For achievements that included transporting more than 50 million pounds of fuel and cargo to antarctic bases, carrying more than 5,000 passengers to the Antarctic and from site to site on the continent, and responding rapidly in two life-threatening emergencies, four U.S. Navy commands serving in Antarctica were awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation on 14 March 1997.
The award, which covered the period from 1 April 1995 through 31 March 1996, was presented to
in recognition of the superior performance and achievements of these commands during Operation Deep Freeze 1995-1996.
Roberta L. Marinelli, whose home institution is Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah, Georgia, has joined the Office of Polar Programs (OPP) staff to serve for two years as the associate program manager for Polar Biology and Medicine. Dennis S. Peacock, section head of the Antarctic Section of OPP, reports that Marinelli's field of research "is broadly defined as benthic biological oceanography, with an emphasis on the ecology of individuals and populations in sedimentary systems. She incorporates chemistry, physics, and mathematics to address issues in the relationship among organisms and their environment. Her experience is not only benthic, but includes research in intertidal, subtidal, continental-shelf, and open-ocean systems. This interdisciplinary background will make her a very valuable member of the OPP team."
Marinelli can be reached at OPP by electronic mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (703) 306-1033, or by fax at (703) 306-0139.
"First you fall in love with Antarctica and then it breaks your heart," begins the Kim Stanley Robinson science fiction novel Antarctica released by Harper-Collins in the United Kingdom in September 1997 and slated for release in the United States soon. Robinson says the opening line of his novel very much reflects his own feelings about the continent, which he visited as a 1995-1996 participant in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Artists and Writers Program. "[Antarctica] has a strange power over the emotions," Robinson says. "Almost everyone who is down there has a feeling for it and wants to go back, becomes an advocate of it and falls in love with it." But, he adds, "Antarctica is sensory deprivation. . . even though you fall in love with it, you come back to New Zealand, and you are just overwhelmed by the smells and by the greenery, and you realize that there is a beautiful, beautiful world, and Antarctica is not beautiful. It is sublime, but it is not beautiful."
Robinson, whose literary awards for his science fiction writing are many, recently received the 1997 Hugo award for Blue Mars, the third novel in his Mars trilogy. Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke proclaimed Robinson's trilogy "required reading for the colonists of the next century." Antarctica, an eco-thriller, envisions a future in which Antarctica has been overtaken by oil reconnaissance teams who plan to plunder the continent for its natural resources, adventure travelers who litter the landscape with trash, and strategic interests who plot to gain influence.
The NSF Antarctic Artists and Writers Program annually supports a small number of scholars from the arts and humanities to participate in the U.S. Antarctic Program. The artists and writers work at U.S. stations and camps to create works that portray the region or human activities there. During the 1997-1998 season, three participants will travel to Antarctica under the auspices of the program:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is highlighting its interest in the Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) interdisciplinary program by sponsoring a special competition. Proposals for 2- to 5-year research projects that will enhance understanding of the microbial systems on Earth, particularly with respect to their diversity and the mechanisms that allow them to survive in and alter extreme environments, are invited.
Funds available to support projects under this special competition are expected to total approximately $6 million. NSF anticipates making approximately 20 awards in fiscal year 1998. Review and processing of proposals will take about 6 months.
The National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs (OPP) estimates that since the 1960s, about 36,000 samples of rock and other geologic materials have been retrieved from the Antarctic by 82 funded investigators during multiple field studies. Because the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) has no centralized antarctic rock storage and curation facility, these samples are kept at various institutions scattered across the country. Lack of a centralized facility means that
To remedy this situation, OPP is investigating the possibility of organizing an antarctic rock and fossil repository and welcomes input from the science community on whether a repository should be established and, if so, how it should be structured and run. Suggestions and proposals will be most helpful if received by 1 February 1998.
Edison Chousest Offshore, Inc., of Galliano, Louisiana, has nearly completed the construction of the R/V Laurence M. Gould, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) new year-round antarctic research vessel. The ice-strengthened Gould replaces the research ship Polar Duke, chartered by NSF from 1985 to 1997. The Gould, which boasts accommodations for 26 research scientists, is capable of 75-day missions. In addition to supporting oceanographic and marine biological research in the Antarctic Peninsula region, the Gould will carry passengers and supplies between Palmer Station and South American ports. A dedication ceremony on 9 October 1997 marked the start of the Gould's antarctic mission.
Laurence McKinley Gould, for whom the ship was named, was not only a polar explorer with Admiral Byrd, he was also a geologist, teacher, and president of Carleton College. He died at the age of 99 in 1995 and was remembered in moving tributes at the dedication ceremony by several of his long-time co-workers from Carleton College and from the University of Arizona, where he also taught. The Gould was christened by Ruth Siple, widow of Paul Siple, who had been the first U.S. science leader at the South Pole during the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) and who, as a Boy Scout, had accompanied Byrd and Gould to Antarctica in 1929.
The Gould will arrive in Fourchon, Louisiana, on 3 November for sea trials and will then depart for Punta Arenas, Chile, on 8 December. The ship is scheduled to arrive in Punta Arena for its first cruise in January 1998.