Antarctica, Antarctica: Fire and Ice
The study of high temperature extreme environments challenges our understanding of the upper tolerances of microbial life and may provide a window to understanding how life originated on earth. The Tramway Ridge geothermal site on Mt. Erebus, an active volcano in Antarctica, is the most geographically isolated geothermal site on earth.
The extreme isolation of Erebus makes it an excellent system for studies of microbial speciation, biogeography, and evolution of thermal adaptation.
An earlier genetic survey of the Tramway Ridge subsurface microbial community revealed an unprecedented diversity of extremely novel microbes distantly related to known bacteria.
Ice chimneys dot the landscape surrounding Tramway ridge and present another unique geothermal habitat for comparisons of geothermal soils.
Ice chimneys are formed when geothermal steam condenses to form an ice vent surrounding hot soils.
Microbes being transported by steam may be deposited on the walls of an ice chimney and become sealed in ice over time. Thus, an ice chimney core may hold a record of changes in the microbial community of the underlying geothermal soil over time.
—IGNITERRA – Antarctic geothermal soil microbiology
McMurdo Dry Valleys – Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory III (MEVO III)
Mount Erebus on Ross Island is the most active volcano in Antarctica.
Its persistent convecting lava lake of anorthoclase phonolite magma is unique among volcanos.
The lake and underlying magmatic system emit volcanic gases into the pristine Antarctic atmosphere.
Because of the access researchers have to the mountain and the nature of its small strombolian eruptions, Mount Erebus has become a model volcano for study.
Researchers started a project to examine the origin and nature of the ice cave systems on Erebus as an analog for possible cave systems on Mars.
—Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory III (MEVO III)
Deception Island (62°57’S, 60°38’W) is one of the most incredible islands on the planet.
It is an active volcano in the South Shetland Islands, off the Antarctic Peninsula. Its unique landscape comprises barren volcanic slopes, steaming beaches and ash-layered glaciers. It has a distinctive horse-shoe shape with a large flooded caldera. This opens to the sea through a narrow channel at Neptunes Bellows, forming a natural sheltered harbour. It is one of the only places in the world where vessels can sail directly into the centre of a restless volcano.
Volcanic Activity – significant volcanic risk
Approximately 10,000 years ago, a violently explosive eruption evacuated about 30 km³ of molten rock from Deception Island. The volcano summit collapsed to form the Port Foster caldera. The volcano was particularly active during the 18th and 19th centuries. 20th century eruptions occurred during two short periods, between 1906-1910 and 1967-1970. In 1992, enhanced seismic activity on Deception Island was accompanied by ground deformation and increased water temperatures. Today, the floor of Port Foster is rising rapidly in geological terms, and there are areas of long term geothermal activity. It is classified as a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk.
Graffiti at Whalers Bay
A number of recent acts of graffiti have been reported on the buildings and tanks at Whalers Bay. Writing or drawing on these historic structures is illegal and degrades the historic value of the site.
The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty prohibits the damage, removal or destruction of Historic Sites and Monuments (Whalers Bay is designated as Historic Site and Monument No. 71). Further, the Code of Conduct for Visitors contained within the Deception Island ASMA Management Package clearly states: “Do not write or draw graffiti on any man-made structure or natural surface.” The Conservation Strategy for Whalers Bay (also part of the ASMA Management Package) notes that while graffiti considered to be of historic importance should not be removed, new graffiti should not be added. These documents are in force internationally and legally binding for all countries party to the Antarctic Treaty.
- 15 distinct regions identified in Antarctica (thehindu.com)
- Swimming with Penguins in Antarctica (theepochtimes.com)
- Future of Antarctica — Greener, More Robots (news.discovery.com)
- Antarctic ice melting from below, reveals satellite (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Morning photo: Deception Island (summitcountyvoice.com)
- As you sow, so shall you reap, Antarctic tourism body warns visitors (smh.com.au)
- What’s melting so many glaciers in Antarctica? Searching for hidden volcanoes under the ice (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- The Polar Plunge – I did it – Day 10 (kaspostcards.com)