Awakening Science

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.

—Albert Einstein (1954), Ideas and Opinions discovery

Early explorers furnished the world with observations about the Antarctic: an ocean covered by ice and teeming with life; icebergs larger than cities; bone-piercing cold and violent winds howling off a barren ice-shrouded continent. Their tales were more than lore—they were the seeds of science in Antarctica.

Educated sealers, such as James Weddell, focused on describing all manner of natural phenomena. He measured the magnetic declination on South Georgia and noted the habitats of seals and penguins throughout his voyage. Moreover, the most southern seal species in the world is known as the Weddell seal (Leptony-chotes weddelli Lesson 1826) even though it was inaccurately portrayed in his drawing of the ''Sea Leopard of South Orkneys.'' For his record southern sailing in 1823, during an exceptionally warm summer when ''not a particle of ice of any description was to be seen,'' the Weddell Sea was named. This simple account, in fact, provides an invaluable historical record for verifying past environmental conditions around Antarctica, which modern scientific techniques can only infer.

Six years later, James Eights (a surgeon turned naturalist: 1798-1882) came to the Antarctic on a sealing voyage with Nathaniel Palmer (1799-1877). Although sealing was on the wane because of the ruthless overexploitation of the seal population, this trip became an important success for its science. Eights collected 13 cases of rocks, terrestrial flora, and marine animals, which he described with meticulous detail between 1833 and 1852—in the earliest ''professional'' research papers from Antarctica. Eights was the first to describe ''tabular'' icebergs, and he became a pioneer in Antarctic marine biology with his precise reports of species such as the 10-legged spider-like pycnogonid (Decolopoda australis Eights 1833) and the giant trilobite-like isopod (Glyptonotus antarctica Eights 1833). During this period, scientific influence also began to burgeon as nations developed organizations such as the Linnaean Society (1799), Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturforscher and Artze (1822), the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1831), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1848). In 1835, for example, the British Association for Advancement of Science proposed

That a representation be made to Government of the importance of sending an expedition into the Antarctic regions, for the purpose of making of observations and discoveries in various branches of science, as Geography, Hydrography, Natural History, and especially Magnetism. . . .

Within 3 years, Charles Wilkes had set sail for Antarctica in command of the United States South Sea Exploring Expedition, which later produced 20 volumes of scientific reports. This expedition also collected and described the type specimen of the krill (Euphausia superba Dana 1852), which Wilkes realized was the principal food for Antarctic penguins and seals. Similarly, the French expedition by D'Urville in 1838 produced geological reports along with well-illustrated biological atlases that included the first description of the crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophaga Hombron and Jacquinot 1842), the species that accounts for nearly half of all seals on Earth.

Antarctic oceanography, glaciology, and meteorology as well as biology were all advanced by the voyages of James Ross during the first half of the 19th century. Using a hemp line fitted with swivels and weights, Ross conducted the first deep-sea soundings and determined depths of 4427 meters in a position where modern charts show 3843 meters. Ross also discovered an enormous ice shelf (now known as the Ross Ice Shelf) that he determined was floating at its seaward edge.

The Zoology of the Antarctic Voyage by H.M. Ships Erebus and Terror, which was edited by John Richardson (1823-1910) and John Grey between 1844 and 1875, further describes species such as the rare Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossi Gray 1844) and the 1.5-meter tall Emperor penguin (Aptehodytes forsteri Gray 1844). Joseph Hooker, in his Flora Antarctica, described flowering plants on sub-antarctic islands as well as marine algae surviving in the frigid Antarctic ocean, including abundant microscopic diatoms in melted sea-ice samples. Meteorological measurements during Ross's voyages also demonstrated that the mean barometric pressure above Antarctica was the lowest on Earth, which is why the atmosphere and ocean circulate together as giant cyclones around the continent.

During this period, Matthew Maury (1806-1873), director of the United States Naval Observatory and author of The Physical Geography of the Sea and Its Meteorology, began realizing that Antarctica was a giant missing piece of the puzzle in understanding the Earth system: ''Within the periphery of that circle is included an area equal in extent to one sixth of the entire landed surface of our planet.''

By 1860, Maury had become an outspoken advocate of ''... all nations agreeing to unite and cooperate in carrying out one system of philosophical research with regard to the sea,'' especially in Antarctica:

England through Cook and Ross; Russia through Bellingshausen; France through D'Ur-ville; and the United States through Wilkes; have sent expeditions to the South Sea The expeditions which have been sent to explore unknown seas have contributed largely to the stock of human knowledge, and they have added renown to nations, luster to diadems.

In February 1874, Antarctic science was given a huge boost when the steamship H.M.S. Challenger crossed the Antarctic circle. From 1872 through 1875, the Challenger had navigated more than 127,000 kilometers through the ocean on a global expedition that discovered the deepest reach of the sea in the Marianas Trench (Fig. 1.3) and nearly 5000 new species. As described by the Royal Geographical Society, the purpose of this global enterprise was to

Investigate the physical conditions of the deep sea, in the great ocean basins—the North and South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean (as far as the neighborhood of the great ice-barrier); . . . observation and experiment of all these points being made at various ranges of depth from the surface to the bottom.

The outcome of this global science endeavor was the production of the Challenger Reports, a 50-volume opus containing the work of nearly 100 scholars that was published from 1880 through 1895. Not only did the Challenger expedition herald the field of oceanography, but the dredges of deep-sea sediments provided the key for Sir John Murray (1841-1914) to forcefully demonstrate that Antarctica was indeed a continent:

These flat-topped icebergs form the most striking peculiarity of the Antarctic Ocean. Their form and structure seem clearly to indicate that they were formed over an extended land surface and have been pushed over low-lying coasts into the sea. As these bergs are floated to the north and broken up in warmer latitudes, they distribute over the floor of the ocean a large quantity of glaciated rock fragments . . . distinctively indicative of continental land . .. near the South Pole.

Murray's hypothetical continent became the catalyst for the era of national Antarctic expeditions that was launched by the Sixth International Geographic Congress in 1895. Within the next two decades, nine countries (Argentina, Australia, England, France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Scotland, and Sweden) had sponsored 14 expeditions to the southern continent. Knowledge that Antarctica was a continent, as opposed to a vast ice sheet, suddenly made a difference to nations. The value of Antarctic science was dawning on the world (Fig. 4.1).

science beyond nations

The international framework for research collaborations in Antarctica originated with the First International Polar Year (IPY) in 1882-83. The First IPY was i

FIGURE 4.1 (Top) United States Coast Guard cutters Polar Star (WAGB-10) and Polar Sea (WAGB-11) cutting channel in the sea ice for the resupply vessel to McMurdo Station (77°50' south, 166°40' east) on Ross Island in the southwestern Ross Sea. (Bottom) New Zealand helicopter transport of equipment and personnel to Edmonson Point (74°20' south, 165°08' east) from the Italian Research Station in the Terra Nova Bay region in the northwestern Ross Sea. (Facing Page) Nansen sleds on the sea ice preparing for the Victoria Land Coast Expedition in 1994-1995 from McMurdo Sound to Terra Nova Bay.

FIGURE 4.1 (Top) United States Coast Guard cutters Polar Star (WAGB-10) and Polar Sea (WAGB-11) cutting channel in the sea ice for the resupply vessel to McMurdo Station (77°50' south, 166°40' east) on Ross Island in the southwestern Ross Sea. (Bottom) New Zealand helicopter transport of equipment and personnel to Edmonson Point (74°20' south, 165°08' east) from the Italian Research Station in the Terra Nova Bay region in the northwestern Ross Sea. (Facing Page) Nansen sleds on the sea ice preparing for the Victoria Land Coast Expedition in 1994-1995 from McMurdo Sound to Terra Nova Bay.

FIGURE 4.1 (Continued)

organized largely by the International Meteorological Congress of 1879 under the advice of Karl Weyprecht (1838-1881), who had envisioned the benefits of coordinated international research:

Decisive scientific results can only be attained through a series of synchronous expeditions, whose task it would be to distribute themselves over the Arctic regions and to obtain one year's series of observations made according to the same method.

The concept of the ''same method'' indicates that standardized approaches for collecting data were being developed so that the data could be analyzed efficiently and interpreted reliably. The concerted effort among nations also would expand the scope of research beyond the possible accomplishments of any individual nation. Moreover, the research coordination would promote continuity and favor the exchange of ideas among nations, both of which are inherently peaceful activities that reinforce further cooperation.

During the First IPY, 11 European nations combined expeditions to study meteorology along with magnetic and auroral phenomena in the Arctic for the welfare of the nations involved (Table 4.1). Two nations also sent research expeditions toward the south polar region. French scientists conducted research in the vicinity of Cape Horn, but only Germany succeeded in establishing a station near Antarctica. This research station at Royal Bay on South Georgia, under the leadership of K. Schrader, provided the first annual cycle of data on the weather and Earth's magnetism in the Antarctic region.

TABLE 4.1 Characteristics of the International Polar Years

International Polar Year (IPY)

TABLE 4.1 Characteristics of the International Polar Years

International Polar Year (IPY)

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